My story isn’t unlike that of so many other women. My first lumpectomy was in 2005 which was thankfully a benign fibroadenoma, but it set the tone for personal awareness (aka worry) about the ?lumps? in my breasts. In 2021, I found another ?lump? by self-exam that didn’t feel like the others. This time I had an ultrasound, mammogram, and two biopsies (the first one didn’t get a good enough sample thanks to my extremely dense breasts). At that time, I didn?t know my breast density, nor the importance of it. I just knew I had ?cystic breasts?. Once again, the biopsy came back negative for anything of concern, but they would continue to monitor me for two years with ultrasounds every 6 months and an annual mammogram during that time.

Fast forward to June 2023, and it’s my last ultrasound of the 2 year time frame. This time, what started out as routine began to feel very different quickly. Ultrasound led to mammogram, led to biopsy, and upon leaving the biopsy, I said to my husband, ?If I don’t have cancer, I’ll be surprised.? Sometimes you just know, you know?

After 5 painfully long days of waiting, the biopsy results revealed that my gut feeling was right, and I had invasive ductal carcinoma, ER/PR positive, HER-2 negative. Things moved very quickly from there (thankfully!) My surgeon ordered an MRI to ascertain which surgical course of action would be best: lumpectomy or mastectomy. I had no family history of breast cancer other than my paternal aunt who found it much later in her life. I was 49 years old and scared out of my mind.

My surgeon was worried about ?underestimation of the disease? due to my breast density. BIRADS D on the mammogram. What I didn’t know then but I do now, thanks to Dense Breasts Canada,is that category D puts you at a greater risk for cancer and the density makes it more difficult to see a tumour on a mammogram. My surgeon suggested genetic testing to aid in our surgical decision and those results came back negative-big win! The MRI showed an approximate 2 cm tumour and he said we could proceed with the oncoplasty lumpectomy vs mastectomy.

The lumpectomy yielded a 2.1 cm tumour, with clear margins, which was good news. They removed 4 lymph nodes and there was .8 mm of disease found in one lymph node, the rest were clear. Stage 2B, node positive. As scary as this all was, it was positive news. We were unsure about chemo at this point, but radiation would be a sure thing as it would take care of any remaining micro disease. I met with the oncologist and because I was on the cusp for so many things, we decided to send the tumour for oncotype testing to confirm if chemo would be beneficial or not. Another long and painful wait for results, but they came back with a very low score for distant recurrence and he said chemo would not be beneficial. MASSIVE WIN!

I completed 10 treatments of radiation and started Tamoxifen as the cancer I had was hormone positive, similar to what so many women seem to have.

I genuinely hope and pray that this is my one and only journey with cancer of any sort. I consider myself so unbelievably lucky to have had the experience that I did; I am grateful this was caught early. Although it was difficult and beyond scary, it was a walk in the park compared to what some women have been through and are going through. Cancer is a brutal disease but since my diagnosis, I have made significant lifestyle changes-eating better, limiting alcohol, moving my body as much as I can-and that’s something I can thank cancer for.

If I were to give any advice to women out there, it would be to listen to your body and know your body. DO BREAST SELF-EXAMS REGULARLY!! If something feels off, don’t put it off! Fear can be both a deterrent and a driver; let it be the latter.