Being diagnosed with breast cancer at 22, during a pandemic.
By: Temi Omaghomi, ANGEL Advocate.
I was living life like the average 22 year old, enjoying my career and making plans for my future. I had been through my fair share of adversities in life so I knew life was unpredictable. However, nothing could have ever prepared me for a cancer diagnosis. My brain just could not process the fact that I was being diagnosed with breast cancer three weeks before I turned 23, with no family history and no symptoms…. and guess what, in the middle of a pandemic!!
Prior to my diagnosis, I heard and saw how common cancer was but I never thought it could happen to me because I had no family history and I was so “young” I mean….what 22 year old needs to worry about cancer? If only I had known that cancer does not discriminate against age and the majority of breast cancer diagnosis are not hereditary.
I had large breasts that were giving me severe back and neck pain, so I decided to have a breast reduction. Being the inquisitive person I am, I asked my plastic surgeon what happens to the tissue that is taken out and he advised me it could be sent to pathology, which I agreed to.
Fast forward to 4 days after my surgery, I was so excited for my appointment to show my surgeon how well I was healing and how happy I was with my new breasts. After discussing all of this with him, he proceeded to tell me that my results from pathology came back. With a smile on my face, I asked him to tell me the results. He responded with “They found cancer in your right breast”.
I honestly do not remember what my reaction to the news was. It was definitely an out of body experience for me, I felt numb and confused and I stopped listening. He went on to give me some referrals for surgical oncologists to start the process and discuss next steps. I wanted to scream, I went in there so excited and was leaving feeling the worst I have ever felt in my life.
I spent the rest of the day being numb and then upset at the whole situation. It was hard for me to come to terms with the fact that I had breast cancer, especially since it was found by accident and I had zero symptoms. It felt like a bad dream that I was not waking up from. I then picked myself up and was ready to do whatever I needed to do to be cancer free, I knew I had no choice but to boss up. I went crazy on Google and researched until my fingers hurt, however I noticed that I did not really see any young black women that were going through this. This prompted me to go search on Instagram, where I ended up meeting my tribe and then Tigerlily Foundation.
After several hospital visits, my diagnosis was confirmed. It was Ductal Carcinoma in Situ (DCIS) aka Stage 0 breast cancer that was Hormone receptor positive.
At that point, it felt like I was on a rollercoaster that would not stop. The doctors were throwing medical jargon at me and talking about treatment options, which all sounded so extreme. I started doing a lot of research and figuring out the best way to advocate for myself. I had so many diagnostic tests ahead and so much to do for this unwanted “second job” that I now had called breast cancer. I buckled up for the journey ahead and knew that the same God that got me through adversity in the past, will get me through this as well.