IN THEIR WORDS

Rebecca Soulliere

Breast Cancer at 33

I first discovered a lump in my left breast while on vacation with my family. I had shooting pains so sudden and sharp I had to grab my breast. Only being 33, I simply made a mental note of the lump and continued on in my life.

About a month later, my husband inquired about the lump and demanded that I get it checked immediately. At this time, I was working 50+ hours a week while taking care of my elderly parents, my husband, and my two young children. Like many other working moms, I put myself last. When on earth did I have the time to make a doctor’s appointment?

Three months after I found the lump in my breast, I did make an appointment with the doctor, but not for the lump—I was pregnant! It was at this pregnancy-confirmation appointment that I had the doctor look at the lump that I had put on the back burner. Although my doctor thought the lump was just a cyst because it did not meet the typical “hallmark cancer symptoms,” she decided to send me to UMass Memorial Breast Center to confirm.

My oncologist looked at my ultrasound and said it “doesn’t look like cancer” and made a joke that I’m too young for cancer; especially with no relevant family history. Still, he decided to do a fine needle biopsy. My doctor called me the day after to tell me that my initial biopsy came back suspicious. Two days later I had a core biopsy.

I received the phone call the next day that changed my life forever. The doctor informed me that I had Stage II Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma in a 4 cm tumor in my left breast. I was now also 14 weeks pregnant.  How had my life gone from happiness and joy of a new baby to our worst fear of cancer?

I wanted to wait until I gave birth to undergo any treatment but my oncologists advised me due to the aggressive nature of my cancer, I could not delay any treatment. Within a week after my diagnosis, I underwent sentinel node surgery followed by my first round of chemotherapy. At seven months pregnant, I underwent my lumpectomy.

On February 6, 2008, I was admitted to the hospital for the induction of my third child. I could not wait to meet the miracle girl who made mommy make that doctor appointment. My water was broken shortly after 3 p.m. and at 5:59 p.m. my newborn daughter, Reece Everest, was in my arms—perfect.

Cancer has provided me with the ability to make many positive changes in my life. Collectively, we will beat cancer but until then, we have to make time for our health, no matter how busy we are. My busy life would have ceased to exist if Reece Everest had not saved it. Be your own self-advocate. Check yourself.

"Collectively, we will beat cancer but until then, we have to make time for our health, no matter how busy we are."

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