By Liana Jacob
MEET THE BRAVE MUM who was diagnosed with breast cancer after her new BOYFRIEND of only TWO MONTHS found a lump on her breast – and although they didn’t know each other ‘too well’ he NURSED HER THROUGH CHEMO.
In April 2018, case manager, Cat Levitt (34) from Colorado, USA, was with her boyfriend, Isaac (33), who she had only been dating for two months at the time, when he found a lump in her right breast which was painful for her.
He urged her to book an appointment to get it tested, but she refused as she felt she was too young. When they got back from their holiday he booked her an appointment with a doctor who scheduled an ultrasound for her. After fears that the lump could be cancerous, she had a biopsy, which confirmed she had stage 2 breast cancer.
In August 2018, her doctors advised for her to have a double mastectomy for preventative measure, to which she agreed to, along with a lymphadenectomy, which is a procedure where some lymph nodes are removed for further testing.
She also had a surgery where they took out all of her breast tissue and put in expanders to get rid of the cancer and prepare her chest for implants, which proved to be painful for her. Her oncologist informed her that she needed four rounds of chemotherapy, which started in September 2018. However, during her first round, she almost died when the combination of chemotherapy drugs and Neulasta resulted in a lack of appetite and dehydration. She became critically dehydrated.
She was in so much pain that she screamed down the phone to her ex-husband, Nate (36), while she was waiting for her boyfriend to come home. During the period when she lost her hair, he helped her shave it off. Her boyfriend’s support and spending time with her daughter, Addie (4), helped her keep a positive outlook throughout her journey.
Three weeks later after she completed her chemotherapy treatments, her expanders were replaced with breast implants. She is now in remission and has explained her illness in simplistic terms to her daughter.
“My current boyfriend and I met at a brewery; our dogs’ leads got tangled up with each other so we started talking, then began dating and he actually found the lump; it was really painful,” Cat said.
“I was going on holiday and he told me ‘you need to get it checked out’ and I was like ‘no, I’m not getting it checked out, I’m fine. I’m really young’.
“But he actually made me book an appointment when we got back. I got an ultrasound appointment scheduled, that’s when my doctor told me that it could be cancerous, but I needed a biopsy to know for sure, which confirmed that it was stage 2 breast cancer.
“I was shocked; I felt like I was too young, I had a three-year-old, so I immediately thought that I wasn’t going to able to be there throughout her life, so I felt really sad for my child.
“I had only known my boyfriend for two months at that point, we didn’t really know each other super well and he was the one who took care of me through chemotherapy, even though we didn’t know each other too well at that time, he really took care of me.
“The day we found out I needed chemotherapy was a really scary day because my boyfriend was with me and we didn’t know how sick I was going to be.
“I started chemotherapy in Sept 2018; I had four different rounds of chemotherapy and the first round was really rough.
“They gave me the chemotherapy drug and the Pegfilgrastim shot, which stimulated your bone marrow to produce more white blood cells, so that your body can fight infection and that actually made me extremely ill.
“The dosage was way too strong for my body, it’s a normal dose for anyone else, but my bones were in so much pain.
“I remember calling my ex-husband, we’re close as we have a child together, and I was just screaming on the phone in so much pain, waiting for my boyfriend to come home.
“Since I was in so much pain, I had to be on so many medications, which caused me to become very dehydrated, as I had trouble keeping food down, I was nauseous and sick.
“There was one time where I almost died of dehydration; it was the combination of the chemotherapy drugs and the Neulasta, my body could not handle it well.
“On the day I almost died, my boyfriend had gotten home and saw me lying, unable to move my fingers or legs, so he carried me into the car and drove me to the hospital.
“Instead of taking me to the emergency room, he took me directly to my oncologist, who saw me faster and gave me fluids and medication. Throughout it all, my boyfriend was there for me; he took time off work, he took care of me.”
Throughout her treatments, Cat says her boyfriend has been a source of comfort for her and she wouldn’t have got through it without him or her ex-husband and daughter.
While she was confident about her decision to have a double mastectomy, she says that post surgery she felt ‘ugly’ and that she had been robbed of her beauty.
“I felt ugly, I felt like I wasn’t a woman anymore, that I wasn’t ever going to breastfeed again, I was never going to be sexy or beautiful. I felt like something that once made me a woman was gone,” she said.
“I felt very defeated and overwhelmed with depression because it was gone. It felt like it happened very quickly.
“There were other women who weren’t as far along in their journey as me and seeing those other women proving that all bodies are beautiful made me feel normal and helped me love myself.
“I post pictures of my breasts on social media to cultivate an atmosphere of acceptance and understanding.
“I do it to reach those women who are struggling to find themselves through this process and to let them know that they are not alone.
“When I had my huge scars from the bilateral mastectomy, I would let my daughter look under my shirt, look at the scars and I would tell her they hurt really bad but I’m OK and I’m strong, we’re strong women.
“When they healed, she would ask ‘where are your nipples’, ‘where are your real boobies’ and we would talk about it.
“She knows what chemotherapy is, she’s been a really big part of it even though she hasn’t ever been at the hospital with me because I didn’t want her to be exposed to that kind of environment.
“I got her several books all about mums who don’t have hair, so she can identify what I went through so that it’s not scary for her.
“I think the reason she’s done well is because she has the emotional tools and language to process all of this which is not scary; if I just remove the mystery from it, then she will be able to process it too.
“My message is that everybody’s journey is different and it’s not linear. I could not have imagined myself as I am now, I thought I’m never going to get outside, I’m never going to be myself again.
“I’m not but that’s OK and that’s what helped me through. I hiked for twenty miles in about two and a half days with forty pounds on my back and that helped me get through too.
“In a few months, I’m going to be one of the ambassadors for the Breastfeeds for Colorado; we’re going to start an Instagram page to help other survivors throughout their recovery.”