Cancer at 27, Chemo at 28

I was sitting at our coffee table marking school papers when I scratched an itch on my breast. Initially, I felt a lump like a marble or cherry tomato under the skin in November 2018 and called my Mom. I then went for a first and second biopsy at a breast and thyroid specialist. It was around December when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast cancer at an age of 27. I was completely numb and reacted in a weirdly cold or professional way when I first received the news. Luckily, my type of case was early detection as Doctor also called it good cancer.

I have a family history of breast cancer. Both my maternal grandmother and two of my mother’s sisters were diagnosed with Breast cancer but surprisingly, my diagnosis was not genetic but hormonal. From the moment I was diagnosed, I started to keep a very detailed record in my daily planner to use the information to start an Instagram account as this was my support network. I thought I could be vulnerable, hurt and angry but it helped me work through those raw emotions and protect my friends and family. It became the most important support and I didn’t need to rely on my friends and family for all my healing because I could connect with people all over the world who have undergone the same journey.

My treatment fit very neatly into a year which was a blessing. As I was diagnosed at a young age the chance of cancer coming back or spreading was very high, so we opted for a double mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Being just 6 months married, it wasn’t the most pleasant news as I would never be able to breast feed. This was a harrowing time as I wanted to ask Doctor for opinions and answers, but we didn’t really know where to go for this support before turning to Instagram. I took my time doing some research about options for a lumpectomy and or a single mastectomy before undergoing the operation.

It is hard to know you have Stage 3 cancer and that it would cost a lot to pay for the treatment. I went for chemo (the red one) every third Friday in the afternoon so that I wouldn’t miss school time which continued throughout the second school term. I had to shave my hair off on our first wedding anniversary in April Louis and felt sick on bed. I took some time off from work in between my chemo treatments. Then, at the beginning of the third term I started with weekly paclitaxel and was told that I needed radiation too. I was tired after the year and wanted to go to my radiation sessions in peace. In terms of services offered, there are lovely people at Cancer Care Cape Gate where I was treated. I turned to my ladies on Instagram for advice when I needed it.

The biggest obstacle for me was not knowing what would happen next, and what to expect. It was difficult to comprehend the medical side of things because Doctor’s work with these things every day but for me it was my first time with cancer which they should remember.

Moreover, the physical losses that I faced weren’t easy. I looked and felt less like myself without lashes, brows and having to lose all the hair. During adolescence we all get to know and learn to love our bodies and ourselves. I loved my eyes, hair and most of all, boobs which are the three things cancer took from me.

The most important thing I would like to share through my story is not to go through this alone. There are different doses of chemo and types of cancer so not many people would be able to work while going through treatment. It is always better to find someone with whom one can talk, ask and share their concerns as information strengthens everyone’s hand. Although, it can be a big thing to have been diagnosed with cancer, but you mustn’t allow it to take over your life. One must try to stay active and creative for if laughter is the best medicine, then creativity is the best therapy.

Written By Jana Hurter, Tigerlily ANGEL Advocate