It started early 2019 when I was beginning to experience extreme fatigue every night. No matter how long or how much I slept, every morning I'd wake up feeling like I never slept.
I had spoken to my doctors and they decided on a sleep study. The study showed I had narcolepsy symptoms, so throughout 2019, I thought I suffered from lack of sleep, and narcolepsy.
In the late summer of 2019, I found a lump in my breast. To be honest, I never thought to check. Cancer was out of mind for me. Suddenly I dropped over 30 pounds in a month by doing absolutely nothing.
Little did I know, it was the cancer feeding on me.
When I had the tumor examined, it had grown approximately 6cm. Since I was on birth control to regulate my periods, my doctor assumed the lump was breast density since it didn't really hurt. No one was worried - so why should I be, right?
I went a few months waiting, until after we flew back home, in mid October of 2019, and scheduled an ultrasound. The tumor had grown to 12x12 cm. Following my ultrasound, I underwent an emergency biopsy on Halloween. The biopsy was absolutely painful and traumatic for me, I remember it well. Plus, there was an affected lymph node, measuring 4cm in size.
November 4, 2019 was the day I got the call that it was cancer. The next day, I met my oncologist. The day after that, I had surgery for my port placement: three incredibly traumatic and stressful days in a row.
My first Zoladex shot took place on November 20th and my first chemo on the 21st. Taxolwas weekly, and every 3 weeks I got Carboplatin with Keytruda - all in the first 3 months. The next 3 months was AC; the red devil.
What a whirlwind.
I finished IV chemo in late April, and was fortunate to use a cold cap to keep some of my hair. To my surprise, only five days after finishing chemo, my appendix was about to burst, and I got an appendectomy!
After chemo, I was delighted to hear I was declared NED as we prepared for my scans before my double mastectomy. Just a few weeks later on May 28, I had my double mastectomy with reconstruction and expanders. The drains were rough!
I started a month and half of radiation in mid-July and during all of that, I got engaged August 1!!!! Best day of 2020!
October was my next scan, and scanxiety hit. I was going to find out if I was still NED. But I was too busy and happy thinking about my engagement! October quickly came, and it all came crashing down on us when we found out my cancer returned. We were both absolutely devastated.
Today, I'm in the middle of starting oral chemo (Xeloda) thinking I'd have more time in remission... but, I just finished cycle 5 of it.
My last scans in November showed very small progression in my lungs, and that's it. But it's been a long long road of constant ups and downs, dealing with side effects, heavy emotions and so much more.
But I do my best to always spend my days doing whatever makes me happy. Not all days are great, but I know it's important to find something you're passionate about. For me, I found makeup!
After I lost the length of my hair (which is devastating enough, I couldn't imagine losing it all!) I didn't feel good about myself. So I turned to makeup. All colors, all styles! My makeup skills have grown significantly and it makes me feel proud, accomplished and also as though I'm sharing beautiful art.
My advice to others? Find something that helps you keep going, despite the hard days, and despite hearing bad news all the time. Currently, the plan is to stay on Xeloda until it stops working against the cancer, or my body can't take the side effects any longer. My oncologist has a plan B and plan C, and I'm very blessed for the medical team I was referred to.
I feel obligated to share my story in depth with everyone because I know how it feels to be so young, diagnosed at 23, with stage 4 cancer, and being told you're going to have to *maybe* lose your hair, and for sure lose your breasts.
I didn't even know reconstruction was a thing until afterwards!
I know how it felt to be so scared of the idea of support groups, but finding organizations and people on Instagram who show you can still have a good life despite this disease is key! Its not easy, but its possible. If you give up mentally, your body will follow. And I am not backing down!