Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Today is the first day in October which means Breast Cancer Awareness month has officially begun. This post is a lot more emotional than the posts I normally write, but I am so excited to share with you guys something very near and dear to my heart. But before I get into all the deatils I wanted to show you this fun little oufit I wore out last week 🙂

When I was 15 my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. I remember my mom sitting my brother and myself down and explain to us just exactly what that meant and how it was going to affect my family. Sadly, cancer runs pretty deep in my family history and we lost my grandmothers sister to it a few years earlier. I was so scared of losing my grandmother and sad that she had to endure such a horrific time in her life. Thankfully after her treatment was done they were confident that they got it all and she has been in remission ever since. Watching her go through all the treatments and seeing how it destroys your body makes my hard feelings towards cancer even that more intense. I am so blesses to still have her here on this earth with us and to be able to advocate for her and myself during the month of October.

Knowing what my family history is I have always been very proactive about healthcare and do regular breast exams. I went to college at FIDM in LA and during my second year started to notice that one of my breasts was getting bigger then my other one. I knew it was normal to have one breast be bigger than the other and that with hormones changing and weight gain and loss the shape of my breasts were always slightly changing. A month went by and at the end of the month my left breast had doubled in size, so much so that i was becoming very concerned. I did a breast exam on myself and noticed a small lump. It was almost Thanksgiving and I would be headed home to see my family so my mom made an appointment with doctor to have the lump looked at. When we went to the doctors appointment my doctor felt around and came to the conclusion that it was a fibroadenoma. Fibroadenomas are common benign (non-cancerous) breast tumors made up of both glandular tissue and stromal (connective) tissue. These are very common tumors in Women who are in there 20’s and he told me to not worry about it. I left the doctors visit feeling thankful but still very uneasy. I went back to school and after a couple weeks and the breast not going down in size but getting bigger told my mom something wasn’t right and that I wanted to see a different doctor. She agreed it was the best thing to do and set up an appointment for me to meet a doctor in LA. When I met with the doctor she too had the same conclusion that it was only a fibroadenoma but she suggested having it removed if I felt that it would ease my mind. I decided to go ahead and have it removed because I wanted to not have to worry about it. We set up an appointment and my parents flew to LA to be with me while I had the surgery. It was my first surgery ever and I was really nervous as I had never been put to sleep before. The surgery went great and they sent off the tumor for testing. I was thankful to be out of the woods and to continue my life.

Unfortunately life had other plans for me and a week later got the call that my tumor was in fact a Phyllodes tumor. Phyllodes tumors of the breast are rare, accounting for less than 1% of all breast tumors. They can be benign or malignant and tend to grow quickly, but they rarely spread outside the breast. The name “phyllodes,” which is taken from the Greek language and means “leaflike,” refers to that fact that the tumor cells grow in a leaflike pattern. I was in shock when I heard this news. My primary doctor that I first visited back home personally called to apologize for not looking into this further and referred me to a specialist in Spokane (where my parents live) who I could speak with about my options. Since my tumor was a highly aggressive cancerous tumor that grows in a leaf pattern they needed to go back in to make sure they got it all, and grab more tissue to make sure it wouldn’t spread. There I was a 21 year old without a care in the world who found out that I had breast cancer and that I had to yet again have another surgery. Instead of having the surgery in LA I went home to be with my family to have the support system there. After speaking with the specialist the decided plan was to have a partial mastectomy, this was the best way to ensure all the cancerous tissue was taken out. So on Christmas eve I had my second big surgery and everything went very well. They took appropriate measures to make sure all the affected tissue was gone and felt confident with my results.  My recovery was very easy compared to what most people go through and I have been cancer free for 7 years this coming December.

I can’t express enough how important it is to listen to your body and to make sure you are taking appropriate measures to ensure you are healthy. I feel so lucky that we caught mine early and that unlike most women had a relatively easy path to recovery. Cancer sucks, plain and simple and I feel so passionately about sharing my story and encouraging women to get regularly checked and to chat with your doctor about your health. October is always bittersweet, I am very fortunate to have my grandmother still here and to have a healthy life myself. I know not everyone gets to be as lucky as we were. 

If you made it to the end of this thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to listen to my story.

XOXO, Rechelle