Breast Cancer at 28 with the rare ATM gene mutation. My experience as a PhD nurse and breast cancer patient.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on 25th of March 2022 at the age of 28. It was devastating, for the first few weeks I didn’t really realize what was happening to me. I remember so well when I discovered the lump in my right breast. I never did routinely breast auto-palpation exam…because simply I just didn’t think I was at risk for breast cancer! Even though my preparation, my formation, my extremely preparation in oncology nursing…the thought that I might have cancer at this age had never crossed my mind. Anyway under the shower I felt a lump in my upper area of my right breast. It was a very strange lump, I remember that I stayed to touch it for a long time, it was hard, stable, not moving, oblong. Instantly I worried. But to every person I said that, they reassured me: “You are too young” they said. Even my parents, my colleagues, my friends. Everyone.
I initially thinking that was an hormonal lump because I felt it in the menstruation period and I think “Well if doesn’t go away I’m going to ask for an ultrasound”. After 10 days the lump didn’t disappear. So I booked an appointment with a breast doctor. When she visited me she reassured me: “I think it is only a cyst, but for precaution we’ll doing an ultrasound”. I went to do my ultrasound more calm, said to my colleagues at work: “See you for lunch”. That lunch obviously never took place. I can split my life just like a before and an after that ultrasound, I remember I went in the ambulatory and met a radiologist. In the right moment she put the probe on my lump she changed her face and asked me: “How old are you?”. In that moment I knew…I really knew that all my fears, worries and concerns are right, that my feelings and sensations about that lump were right. Instantly I began to cry and I ask to the radiologist: “This is not a cyst right?” and she replied to me: “I’m sorry dear, I think we gonna took a mammogram because I’m afraid you could have breast cancer”.
Needless to say that my life has turned upside down. I want to share my story and my experience because I think that health systems are not ready to face the overcome early diagnosis of cancer in younger ages. I had to insist, to fight to be examined by a doctor. Luckily I met a breast doctor that prescribed me an ultrasound immediately, but everyone around me told me I worried to much. Also I want to share my story because even I’m a healthcare professional with a doctoral degree, I didn’t do my auto-palpation exam routinely and this is WRONG!
Breast cancer can affect young women, breast cancer could be prevented routinely with auto-palpation exam, it’s important for women (especially younger women) to do it monthly. I’m now on neoadjuvant chemotherapy and waiting for my surgery that will be schedule for the last week of October. My cancer journey is only at the begin, I think that sharing experiences and stories are important, not only for educate other people but especially to create a community of people with common experiences and to decrease the psychological burden of a cancer diagnosis.