At age 32, I tested positive for the BRCA gene. I wasn’t surprised, as there was a history of breast cancer in my family, In this case, my oncologist and I agreed that knowledge was power; my BRCA gene status would now become the “GPS” to my health. I was closely observed and was diligent about making sure I got my mammograms, MRIs and clinical exams on a regular basis.
An unpleasant discovery
When I was 42, I scheduled my annual mammogram appointment. This was an unusual one for me because the clinician discovered a very small (but suspicious) lump right away. They weren’t sure what it was, so they did a quick biopsy. Benign. “Phew,” I thought.
Shortly after this initial diagnosis, the doctor then came in and said “I see a shadow.” Within minutes, I found myself undergoing another biopsy. My head was spinning and I couldn’t process what was happening, everything was moving so quickly. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer. Luckily I got an appointment the very next day with a top breast surgeon and was given my treatment options. I was told that once I hit my five-year mark, the chances of a recurrence are slim to none.
A major milestone
Two months ago, I hit that milestone. I was under close surveillance because I had a family history and elected to have genetic testing. I consider myself very lucky for having an early diagnosis and a positive outcome. Sadly, many women in their late 20s and early 30s who are ultimately diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer may not have been taken very seriously during their initial consult. Younger women are often dismissed simply because they’re pre-menopausal.
I hope my story illustrates the fact that knowledge is power. My medical treatment, along with the incredible support from my family and the triple negative breast cancer community all contributed to the good health that I so humbly enjoy today. There is life after breast cancer. I’m so proud to give back through my fashion and beauty blog, as well as my other endeavors and advocacy work.
Melissa Berry, Triple Negative Breast Cancer Survivor, [email protected]