This is a sponsored post on behalf of Texas Oncology about my experience as a young breast cancer survivor and the impact of community-based cancer care in Austin, Texas.
When I Became a Young Breast Cancer Survivor
September 25, 2009: That’s a date I will never forget. Nine years ago, I got the call while I was hosting a kids’ playgroup at my house. I had gone to have what we (myself and three different doctors) believed was a cyst or clogged milk duct drained. To everyone’s surprise, it was determined that the small lump I had was invasive ductile carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. At the age of 31, I became a young breast cancer patient.
After that call, my life was a whirlwind of doctors’ appointments, scans, and tests. Ten days later, I had a bilateral mastectomy. Then, a few weeks after that, I started chemotherapy.
My bilateral mastectomy was in Dallas, where my parents lived at the time. I spent a few weeks recovering there, away from my husband and kids and our home in Austin. A new diagnosis and being away from home made this a very difficult time.
Breast Cancer Under Age 40
Since many breast cancer diagnoses occur in women over 40, I faced some unique challenges being diagnosed at age 31. For example, I had to be more persistent with my doctors to get a lump checked out. Since I was young, the doctors were not overly concerned when I found a small pea-sized lump. I persisted and the cancer was caught early. I try not to think about what could have happened had I waited a few more weeks or months.
Another challenge I faced was having young kids while going through a cancer diagnosis. My kids were 1 and 3 years old at the time. I was a stay-at-home mom with no immediate family close by. Thankfully, we had many local friends and out-of-town family who supported and helped as much as possible. But even so, there were still days when I had to take care of the kids on my own while my husband was at work. With little energy and a weakened immune system, I had to get creative about the things we could do during that time.
Local Cancer Care in Austin, Texas
In order to be with my family and in the comforts of my own home, I chose to have chemotherapy in Austin at Texas Oncology. Since then, I have continued to receive care at Texas Oncology with Dr. Debra Patt and Dr. Beth Hellerstedt. Through Texas Oncology I had access to community-based cancer care and numerous support organizations in Austin.
For instance, my husband and I took a cooking class for cancer survivors at Texas Oncology. Each week, we learned about healthy foods and easy ways to prepare them at home. I learned about the Breast Cancer Resource Center, a local organization supporting breast cancer patients that I still participate in today. Throughout the years, there have been many local breast cancer events and organizations that have helped me connect with others as well as provide and receive support.
Evolution of My Cancer Survivorship
Over the last nine years, my survivorship has evolved into what it is today through the strong friendships and support I have received here in Austin. While there are days that I feel stress, doubt and fear, these amazing women and organizations have helped lighten the load and made me feel more connected.
I will never know why I got breast cancer, but I do know that I have the BRCA1 gene mutation that puts me at a higher risk of developing certain cancers including breast and ovarian cancers. Because of my BRCA1 gene mutation, I have been under careful surveillance to watch for these cancer types.
Cancer Survivor in Austin Benefits from Community-Based Cancer Care
Since my cancer diagnosis, I have been through a range of emotions over these last nine years. Even though I will have a lifetime of cancer surveillance including regular doctors’ visits and tests, having community-based cancer care makes my cancer journey easier.
Rachel is an Austin blogger, educator, mom, wife, young breast cancer survivor writing about health, saving money, and living a happy life in Austin, Texas.
Rachel has written for HuffPost and Hometalk and has been featured on KXAN, Studio 512, Fox 7 Austin, and CBS Austin.