What would you consider the “prime years” of your life to be? Most people would probably say their 20s, so for all intents and purposes, let’s go with that.
Picture this: You’re in the prime of your life, 26 years old, making the most of the world mid-pandemic. Sure, you’ve had to cancel some flights, miss concerts, and avoid most of your friends IRL, but you’re going on road trips with your S.O. over long weekends, moving up the corporate ladder into a senior role within your job, and getting ready to start the house-hunting process with the love of your life.
Life couldn’t get better despite the state of the world.
It couldn’t get better, no – but it could get worse.
I first felt a lump in my left breast in mid-December 2020. I was 26 years old, and I was skeptical that anything was wrong. The lump didn’t hurt, I felt fine, and life was as good as it could get at that moment. I avoided going to the doctor as much as possible because as a healthy 26-year-old, what was the point of going unless something was wrong?
Christmas is my favorite time of year, and we were fewer than 2 weeks out from the 25th. After feeling the lump in my breast multiple days in a row, something inside told me to ask the people closest to me what they thought I should do.
I asked my boyfriend, who is a much bigger proponent of going to the doctor than I was, what he thought when feeling the lump. He immediately told me it didn’t feel right, but not to worry – just schedule a check-up. Before I did that, I asked my mom to feel the lump, too. I figured “mother knows best” in this scenario, and she’d either confirm what he thought or calm my fears. She agreed that I should see a doctor, so I scheduled an appointment at my clinic for mid-January, once the holiday season was over.
On Jan. 11, 2021, I went in for my appointment, a simple office visit with a nurse practitioner. She was kind and attentive, but overall not very concerned that the lump in my breast was anything other than an “inflamed milk duct given the lack of cancer history” in my family and the fact that “most breast lumps in women as young as [me] aren’t cancer,” so we should wait until my next period cycle was over to see if it went away on its own.
Spoiler alert: It didn’t.
On Feb. 15, 2021, 10 days before my birthday, I went in to see the same nurse practitioner. This time she seemed a bit more concerned. The lump hadn’t grown, and there were no visible signs of irritation, but to err on the side of caution, she told me to schedule an ultrasound and mammogram with breast imaging.
While she did seem concerned, I was irritated that everything was happening now, while I was getting ready to head out of town for my 27th birthday, but I definitely wasn’t going to go to the doctor during my birthday week. So I called and scheduled my breast imaging appointment for March 3, 2021, 6 days after I turned 27.
I came in for my imaging, and at the end of the appointment, they told me I needed to come in again the following week for additional imaging and a needle biopsy. I wasn’t sure why they couldn’t just do the biopsy the same day, so I scheduled the second appointment and came back into the office on March 9, 2021.
The next day, I received a call from the clinic’s receptionist: “Hi, Ms. Reynoso, we’re going to need you to come in tomorrow to discuss the results from your recent biopsy.” I asked her to just tell me over the phone, but she refused.
I was pissed. You mean to tell me I had to take another day off of work just to go back in?
Whatever the reason (which was pretty clear by now), they could just tell me on the phone to save me a trip. But life doesn’t always work out in your favor, which was a lesson I was about to learn.
On March 11, 2021, my mom, my dad, my boyfriend, and I drove to the clinic together. Nobody could come inside with me (thanks, COVID) despite my knowing why I was going to the clinic that day.
On March 11, 2021, exactly two weeks after turning 27 years old, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.
On March 11, 2021, my life changed forever.
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Photo Credit: Cavan Images via Getty Images
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