Robyn S Diagnosed at age 25
In 2016, when I was just 25 years old, I found a small lump while I was living in Rwanda, halfway across the world from my family and closest support system. I initially thought it was nothing, maybe just a cyst, so I waited a month to see if it would go away on its own. It didn’t, so I went through the diagnostic process in Rwanda only to be told that I ‘probably’ have cancer. At the first sign of suspicion, I began to mentally prepare myself for a cancer diagnosis, as much as someone can, and knew I’d have to leave the beautiful country that I fell in love with.
After additional testing in Rwanda, they couldn’t confirm my diagnosis so I moved back to Florida and into my mom’s house to repeat the diagnostic process in the US. Turns out, I had stage 2 Triple-Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with lymph node involvement. I was BRCA negative, but my maternal grandmother did have breast cancer so I still think there could be an unknown genetic component to my cancer.
I decided to stay in Florida for treatment and started A/C chemo just a couple weeks later. Nearly two weeks after my first chemo, right when my hair started falling out, I met my now husband. Dating during cancer was its own adventure and much too long a story for now, but I’m sure some others will be able to relate.
After 4 A/C treatments over 2 months, I switched to Taxol chemo once a week for another 3 months. Luckily, the treatment was working and my tumor shrunk significantly! We followed chemo with a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy where everything tested negative again. Phew. To me, that was the biggest perk of doing chemo before surgery. I felt a lot of relief knowing that the chemo was working to kill the cancer cells in my body. Lastly, I had 6.5 weeks of radiation treatments, once a day Monday through Friday. It was a long 10-month whirlwind but I remained optimistic throughout.
Once treatment ended, I moved to DC to start a new job and kick cancer to the curb. Survivorship struggles really blindsided me though and I realized that I’ll never really go back to the person I was before cancer. That was really tough for me, but with the right types of support for my mental and physical health, I’ve slowly learned to thrive again.
I’m now 5.5 years since my diagnosis and I have a beautiful life. I’m married to the best partner I could have ever asked for, we have a beautiful wheaten terrier pup, we bought our first home and I’m taking a new direction with my career. We’re also going through IVF which has its own challenges but I am so grateful to still be here, cancer-free and trying to grow our family. I still struggle sometimes, but I’m so much better equipped to seek the support that I need.
Please don’t hesitate to ask for help and seek support services that can improve your quality of life during and after cancer. Sending all my love to anyone in treatment or survivorship - you’ve got this!
If you’d like to read more of my story, you can take a look at my blog - www.still-rising.com.
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