Therese | New York
Diagnosis: Breast Cancer
Chemotherapy Regimen: TCHP
Total Treatments: 6
I’d heard the numbers—one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer, but I never thought that six weeks after my wedding, I’d became part of that statistic at age 31.
Finding the lump in the shower was a total accident—at my age, I wasn’t even doing a breast exam! I went to a reputable breast doctor who told me I had nothing to worry about, and that the lump was a fibroadenoma (benign tumor common in women in their 30s). I could have listened to this doctor and went on my merry way, however, my gut was telling me I needed a second opinion.
The second doctor also thought the lump appeared to be a fibroadenoma but wanted to biopsy it just to make sure. A few days later, I got the call that I never expected – a call no one should ever have to receive: “You have breast cancer.”
I fell to the floor into my new husband’s arms, having zero idea what the future would hold. Even the doctor was shocked, so shocked that my DNA was tested to make sure the pathology report wasn’t an error. I was a newlywed with a lifetime ahead of me—this felt like such horrifying news. My biggest question was, “Now what?” I didn’t have a plan, I didn’t know what was going to happen, and I was terrified. That, for me, was the worst part.
I have no family history of breast cancer, and tested negative for the BRCA gene. With the help of family and friends, we researched and met with the best doctors in New York. I am so fortunate to have found the lump on my own and caught the cancer early. “You saved your life, Therese,” was a phrase I heard over and over. Doctors are seeing breast cancer more and more in women and men in their 30s, and even in their 20s. The scary part is mammograms don’t start being covered by insurance companies until age 40 if there is no family history.
Once I heard a mention of chemotherapy, I was devastated. The first thing I remember wondering was, “Am I going to lose my hair?” I’ve always had long, blonde hair that people complimented me on. As I waited for our wedding photos to come back from the photographer, I was distraught that I’d be bald very soon. For the first couple of weeks, I remember crying about my potential hair loss: “I don’t want to lose my hair.” – “I don’t want to buy a wig.” – “I don’t want to look different.” It was a very difficult pill for me to swallow.
I went to three different oncologists to get their medical opinion – three different infusion centers – and when I went, I saw young women my age, completely bald and losing their hair. I knew this was going to be me if I didn’t do something about it.
One of the reasons why I ended up at Weill Cornell Medical Center is because I knew they had DigniCap. I was able to keep most of my hair using DigniCap, and my hair is continuing to grow. I followed the directions to a tee and had a very good result.
When you get diagnosed with cancer, there is very little you can control. I couldn’t control my physical feelings or my emotional feelings during treatment, I couldn’t control my long commutes to undergo the treatment, or having to take a leave from work, but being able to keep my hair, and look in the mirror, gave me some control over a really scary situation.
I had 6 sessions of intense chemotherapy over 18 weeks and had a double mastectomy. Through the Grace of God, my surgery pathology report showed no residual cancer. It didn’t spread to the lymph nodes and I had a 100% success rate of treatment. I can now proudly say I am cured and cancer-free! I cannot express enough the gratitude I have for everyone who has been on this journey with me. Thank you for holding my hand throughout the nightmare.
Life can change in an instant. We were on cloud nine as newlyweds and this hit us like a ton of bricks. But we were fortunate. If we can get through this, we can get through anything!