There are some dates I'll never forget.
February 11, 2012. While getting ready for a friend's party, I scratched an itch. During this fateful scratch, there was a palpable lump in my left breast which I had never felt before. I quickly consulted Google. The results I found were reassuring. Between 80 and 85 percent of breast lumps are benign. Comforting odds. But, it also says to consult a medical professional. I was fairly confident it was just a cyst. I was only 30 years old, and my family does not have a strong history of cancer.
February 27, 2012. I have an appointment to visit the gynecologist. I told the nurse practitioner I was there because I felt what seemed to be a cyst in my left breast. She did the exam, and told me the lump was not a cyst and it felt solid. She said I needed a mammogram and ultrasound within the week. I nervously called and made the next available appointment. I am fairly confident that whatever was in my breast would be benign. It had to be; I'm only 30 years old.
February 29, 2012. I arrive for my mammogram and ultrasound. I'm surrounded by much older women in the waiting room. After my exams are finished, a radiologist arrives in my room. She tells me my images are suspicious and I immediately need a biopsy. I am completely blindsided by this news and burst into tears. Someone from pathology also arrives in my room to look at slides of the tissue taken from the fine-needle aspiration biopsy of my breast. Once those are done, the radiologist says she needs to do an invasive biopsy called a core biopsy, because the results of the first one are suspicious. I ask if it's suspicious for malignancy. She says yes. I immediately start sobbing. I am only 30 years old. I've never been married. I've never had children. I cannot have cancer. I call my brother to meet me at the doctor's office as soon as possible, because I am there alone. I am called into the radiologist's office and my worst fear is confirmed: I have breast cancer, and at least one lymph node is malignant. Calling my parents and telling them I have cancer is the hardest thing I have ever done in my life.
The days following my diagnosis I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy, as my surgeon told me the tumor was about 3.5cm and I was not an ideal candidate to have a lumpectomy. Luckily I was able to have reconstruction at the same time, so I wouldn't need to have a separate procedure. A PET scan confirmed the cancer was only in my left breast and one lymph node, and I was still in Stage II.
The day before my surgery, I was dealt a blow. The core biopsy revealed I have triple negative breast cancer, which is more rare and aggressive. There is no question at this point I will require chemotherapy. Triple negative breast cancer is very responsive to chemotherapy, even though I have limited options to drugs. While there is a chemotherapy regimen I can be treated with, I will not be able to take Tamoxifen, which is a pill survivors with hormone positive tumors take for five years after chemotherapy to cut recurrence risk by up to 50 percent.
March 13, 2012. The mastectomy and reconstruction is a success, and I am technically cancer-free.
April 19, 2012. I start chemotherapy. The first four rounds were Adriamycin and Cytoxen, every other week. The next twelve rounds were Abraxane, after an allergic reaction to Taxol. Chemotherapy is extremely physically challenging. The fatigue, sensitivity to smells, loss of appetite and general malaise was very hard to deal with day after day. Sometimes, just getting out of bed and going for a walk was considered a victory. I will finish chemotherapy October 2, 2012. On October 22, 2012, I will begin radiation for five weeks.
A blessing from this diagnosis is meeting other survivors. It's not easy going to all my doctor's appointments and always being the youngest patient. One of the organizations I've become involved with is the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. Since TNBC affects mostly younger women, it’s comforting to meet other people my age. Most importantly, it gives me to hope to meet many people living and thriving years after this devastating disease has rattled their lives.
Since October is breast cancer awareness month, my advice to women is to know your body. If your breasts appear swollen, tender, or you feel any lumps, make an appointment with your gynecologist. Breast cancer does not discriminate, and it does not care how old you are.
I thought 30 was too young to be diagnosed with breast cancer; and sadly, I was wrong.
Annie Goodman is a producer for "Your World With Neil Cavuto" at Fox News Channel in New York City. Look for more articles and updates from Annie on her fight against triple negative breast cancer on FoxNewsHealth.com throughout the month of October. You can follow Annie on Twitter at @annieg917