We know of the statistic, “1 in 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime,” but we often don’t think that could happen to women who are young. Women aren’t advised to get mammograms until age 40, so what happens when you feel a lump in your breast before then? It’s important to be your own best advocate, and that’s exactly what 24-year-old Natalie W. did.
What is your connection to breast cancer?
I like to call myself a “live-r.” I am currently living with metastatic breast cancer.
What is your story?
In Spring of 2021, I felt a lump in my breast while I was showering but I did not think anything of it at the time; some women just have lumpy breasts. Finally, after some more noticeable changes to the area and my intuition that something was seriously wrong, I decided to get the lump looked at by my primary care physician. Two days later I had an ultrasound, a mammogram and emergency biopsy that afternoon. A week later, in November of 2021, at 24 years old, I was diagnosed with stage II HER2+ invasive ductal carcinoma. Body scans a week later showed a few spots of concern on my bones, further progression than anyone had hoped for, and thus, metastatic breast cancer. Since my diagnosis, I have completed six rounds of chemotherapy, had a total mastectomy, 33 rounds of radiation, and continue to get infusions of Herceptin and Zometa.
Why did you sign up for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day?
I actually signed up because I love to walk and challenge myself, not knowing it would turn into an unforgettable experience with my mom and best friends.
Why do you think early detection is important?
Early detection saved my life. Early detection means earlier treatment and that is so crucial when dealing with cancer. We need more awareness for young women to check themselves monthly. A mammogram when you’re 40 should not be the first time you take action.
What advice would you give to other young women going through a breast cancer diagnosis or treatment?
Some days will suck, and you’ll want to lie in bed and cry and scream, “why me?” and you should give yourself that grace and allow that. However, life moves fast and if you’re able to go out and enjoy it, you shouldn’t let your diagnosis hold you back from living. Believe me, this is no fun and no walk in the park, but if you try to treat your life as normally as possible, it really helps distract you from the obvious.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Trust your intuition and your gut. We know our bodies better than anyone. If you think something is wrong, speak up and advocate for yourself and don’t stop until you get to a doctor who will listen.
Trust yourself and trust your body. Breast cancer does not discriminate on race, ethnicity, age or sex.