Ryan Shepard
About Author
April 26, 2024
Mom Life

Breast Cancer During Pregnancy: A Year of Reflection

It's hard to believe that a year has passed since I received the life-altering news of my breast cancer diagnosis. On April 26th, my world shifted when my surgical oncologist informed me that the biopsy results revealed cancerous cells in my left breast. I was 20 weeks pregnant, sitting in her office, trying to absorb the gravity of what I was hearing.

The diagnosis was triple-negative breast cancer. For those unfamiliar, triple-negative breast cancer is a subtype that lacks the three most common receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth: estrogen, progesterone, and HER2 protein. This makes it more challenging to treat, as hormone therapies and targeted therapies like Herceptin are not effective. Triple-negative breast cancer accounts for about 10-15% of breast cancer cases and tends to be more aggressive.

Despite the frightening diagnosis, there was a glimmer of hope. My cancer was classified as stage one, with most of the tumor identified as stage zero. In cancer staging, stage zero means non-invasive cancer, confined within the breast ducts or lobules and has not spread into nearby breast tissue. This news was somewhat reassuring, but the road ahead was still daunting.

Due to my pregnancy, certain treatment options were limited. Radiation therapy, a standard treatment post-mastectomy, was off the table. Chemotherapy was a possibility pending the results of lymph node testing, but thankfully, it turned out unnecessary. My surgical oncologist recommended a mastectomy of my left breast to remove the cancerous tissue, given the incompatibility of radiation with pregnancy.

Navigating breast cancer during pregnancy was a complex and emotionally taxing experience. I faced difficult decisions about treatment while carrying my child, balancing hope for a healthy future with immediate concerns for my baby's well-being.

Reflecting on this day now, it's surreal to think of the journey I've traveled. Today, I'm a mother to two healthy baby girls, still nursing my almost eight-month-old daughter. My body has healed, and I've regained a sense of normalcy, but the emotional scars remain.

Living after a cancer diagnosis (I personally hate the word survivor) means carrying invisible burdens. The anxiety and trauma linger, manifesting in unexpected moments—reminders of what I've endured. I belong to a club no one wishes to join, marked by shared experiences of resilience and perseverance.

As I mark this anniversary, I'm compelled to share a crucial message. Cancer rates among young adults are rising, and awareness is critical. Early detection can be lifesaving, opening doors to more treatment options and improving survival rates. If you notice changes in your body, advocate for yourself and seek medical evaluation without hesitation.

To those already fighting their own battle with breast cancer, my heart goes out to you. You are not alone in this struggle, and I hold onto hope for brighter days ahead.

With love and solidarity,

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