Guest blog post from Katherine Cook. Katherine has been a Patient Access Representative at Mosaic for five years. Her recent experience with breast cancer— diagnosed at the age of 25 — inspired her to share her story so that others might become more aware of the fact that breast cancer can strike at any age.
I had noticed a lump in my breast during my pregnancy with my second child, and was told by my doctors that it was common for someone my age to have bumps and lumps. After I gave birth to my daughter I noticed that the small lump was now the size of a cutie orange. I went back to my doctors and was told that it was a clogged milk duct and to pump it out. That did not help, and actually made it worse. I went back for my six week post-partum check up and saw a different doctor who sent me in for urgent diagnostic ultrasounds, biopsy and mammogram.
I received the call with my diagnosis of stage two breast cancer on Dec. 7, 2022 and so much happened so fast from that point. I was sent in to meet with a general surgeon, an oncologist, and a plastic surgeon to discuss my options. I had to be tested to see if my cancer was genetic, hormone driven, etc. I was made aware that my insurance most likely wouldn’t cover those test costs unless I had a family history of it. The testing cost me around $130 out of pocket, but in my opinion it is good knowledge to have.
Due to the size of my tumor I had to undergo chemo, most likely a mastectomy and radiation. It was a lot to do, and it all happened so fast. From the time I was diagnosed it took seven weeks to have a plan and start treatment.
When I first received the call with my diagnosis I was in complete shock, but truthfully, I laughed because I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I knew that I had to hold it together, so my family didn’t fall (emotionally) apart. My immediate family was completely heartbroken, but very supportive and by my side through it all trying to help me navigate all this information being thrown my way. My mom is a tea guru and she started researching what I needed to drink to help me. Everyone was doing something to try to help me be more comfortable.
Since my diagnosis I have completed 16 rounds of chemotherapy. I shaved my hair and it has started growing back (probably the most humbling thing I have gone through). I have undergone surgery to remove the tissue where the tumor was. I have received the news that I am currently cancer free, and I’m currently going through 20 rounds of radiation.
My emotions today are completely different than they were when I first learned I had cancer. I started this journey scared and overwhelmed, but recently I am happy to be done, and grateful for the experience. Although I will be honest that there is always a fear of a reoccurrence.
I have learned many things through this experience. I learned that I am resilient and can adapt to any environment and circumstances. And it has made me realize that very often our health is taken for granted. I have realized that taking care of our bodies, minds and health is so important and so often ignored and neglected. I have met many people going through their own journey who are simply happy to wake up another day. I am more grateful for the smaller things. I am feeling stronger every day and excited to be nearing the end of this chapter in my life.
I think it’s important for others to know that cancer does not discriminate against age or genetics. If you know something is wrong listen to your gut. You will find someone who is willing to listen if you advocate for yourself.I am very thankful for Mosaic as a whole. I want to shout out Makyla, my supervisor, and my team of coworkers for being my friends while I went through this journey, and HR who helped me navigate my benefits while I took time off to deal with my health. I am thankful to work for a company that truly has taken care of me while I was down. Cancer affects every aspect of your life and I’m grateful to have support from all aspects of my life.
Though breast cancer is considered rare in your 20’s or 30’s (only about five percent of cases are in this age group) people should still get checked. There are breast cancer screenings available. Learn more here. There are also genetic tests that can determine if you are at risk. Learn more here.