My first blog post! A rundown of everything that's happened so far.
When I was 15, my family got genetically tested for the BRCA2 genetic mutation (there is a massive family history of cancer in my dad's family, and he himself got testicular cancer when he was 26). I found out at 15 that I was positive for the BRCA2 mutation. Weirdly, though, I was never too worried. I was constantly reassured that by the time I would need to worry about cancer, science would have improved so much that I could probably just edit the mutation away and never get cancer. Breast cancer at 24 years old was not on the radar. In fact, I wasn't meant to start screening for breast cancer until age 25, and I wasn't planning on having any preventative surgeries (getting my ovaries and breasts removed) until at least 35.
In June of 2021, I felt a hard lump on my breast near my armpit. I wasn't doing regular breast exams - my gynecologist told me they weren't effective (the new me would disagree - please check your breasts). Despite a strong conviction that the lump was nothing, I contacted my gynecologist's office and explained my general symptoms. They made an appointment to come in the very next day. Certain that I'd go in and be told it was nothing, I was unnerved when they referred me to radiology for a targeted ultrasound. But still, it was easy to put out of my mind. I'm too young for breast cancer.
Two weeks later, the technician had an ultrasound wand on my boob and I was telling her I was pretty sure it was just a hard lymph node when a big black hole appeared on the screen. It was probably the most intimidating thing I'd seen in my life. She moved the wand a little so a tiny little circle appeared and she said, "That lump isn't a lymph node, this is a lymph node. Look how cute it is!" She was right, my lymph node was pretty cute. My heart rate was not. That same day, I had my first mammogram and my first biopsy (which, by the way, was excruciating - that localized anaesthetic did noooot hit the spot). I was in pain all night but I was more irritated than scared. I didn't want a small scar from that biopsy, I didn't want healing to ruin my weekend, I didn't want to be in pain. Especially when it was all for nothing because I knew it wasn't cancer. Turns out, I don't think I'll ever be irritated by a biopsy for the rest of my life.
Come the 7th of July, five days after the biopsy, I was back to working from home. I didn't expect to hear back about the results for another couple of days, and I'd put it pretty far out of my mind. My phone rang and I was surprised to hear that it was the hospital. The woman on the phone sounded odd, and immediately my blood was going cold.
"Did you happen to see the results on MyChart yet?"
"No." I looked at my phone quickly to double-check, and sure enough, there weren't any results uploaded to MyChart.
"Okay, so I just happened to look a few minutes ago and... I'm so sorry, um, it turns out, um, it's cancer." It was almost nonchalant. All I said back was a casual, "Oh".
She kept talking and eventually I had to say I needed it all in an email because I wasn't hearing anything she was saying. I hung up with her and called my mom crying, and then the rest of the day I was on the phone with what I feel like was every single person in the entire hospital.
Since July 7, it has been a next-level whirlwind of decisions and doctor's appointments. Pre-diagnosis, I had planned to move out of my San Francisco home back to my family in Chicago on July 26. But, I'm lucky that my parents have been able to fly to be with me on the hard days, and the doctors at UCSF happen to be some of the best in the world for breast cancer. Not to mention, they already knew me and getting into a whole new hospital with all new doctors in a place I hadn't lived in for 7 years just seemed like a lot. I was also supposed to start business school in September at DePaul, but I've chosen to defer for a year. Some days I'm certain that was the right choice, and others I'm not, but I think trying to work my ass off, make new friends, decorate a new apartment, and explore a new city would be much more fun without the chemo side effects.
I've had to make a lot of choices since July 7th. I've frozen my eggs (apparently I'm a fertility goddess; I managed to squeeze out 22 egg babies) because chemo wreaks havoc on your ovaries. I've had a port put into my chest which looks like a small third boob. And I started chemo on August 4th. I'm doing the TCHP (Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta) chemo cocktail, one round every three weeks, ideally (if there are no delays) ending on November 17. Then, thanks to my genetic mutation, I will be getting a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. Not gonna lie, it breaks my heart to say goodbye to the one boob that's been nothing but nice to me. But it's better to be safe than sorry when you're in my genetic situation.
I'll continue updating the blog as things go on. Be sure to follow me on Instagram (@michybees) for more regular updates. My second round of chemo is the day after my 25th birthday - what a way to celebrate!