As young adults we rarely think about cancer and other diseases because we are INDESTRUCTIBLE! Aren’t we? Refinery29 sat down with Felicity Palma, a young woman who will tell you first hand, you’re not.
When Palma’s doctor first felt the lump in her breast, he simply shrugged it off and explained that it was probably just a cyst. It was only after her persistence with her doctor to keep testing until they had answers that lead to her diagnosis of breast cancer.
When her doctor gave her the news, Palma sat there totally numb. All she could think was, “What? How? Why? Is it my fault? What did I do wrong? Am I going to lose my breasts? Am I going to lose my hair? Am I going to die?” The doctor provided no comfort, explaining there was nothing else he could do for her and that she needed to find a surgeon.
In April of 2013, Palma began her treatment where she received a lumpectomy, a procedure that removed the lump from her breast. This was followed by Tamoxifen, a synthetic drug used to treat breast cancer, ]one that she will have to take for the next 10 years. She also underwent two months of radiation. Finally, she will receive ovarian suppression (a method of slowing the growth of hormone receptor-positive breast cancer), which will last two to three years. For the next 10 years, Palma will be kept under close watch by her doctors, with regular checkups, mammograms and MRIs.
One of the most difficult parts of her diagnosis was the lack of community of support for young women with breast cancer. It was hard to find other women who could relate to her experiences while undergoing treatment. She explains, “I am by far the youngest person in the radiation waiting room. Every time I walk in, I look around to see if maybe there’s someone else around my age. This has been such an isolating experience, that I feel like I’m constantly seeking some sense of camaraderie and community. But it’s always just me, so I try and make the best of it.”
Even once her treatment is over, Palma is at higher risk for occurrence. It’s a burden she will carry for the rest of her life. She hopes that her story will help to encourage young women to take an active part in their early detection plan and risk reduction. To learn more about how you can become breast aware and start taking your breast health in your own hands, visit the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation Be Breast Healthy website.