By Alyce Collins
DURING a romantic fondle with her boyfriend, this woman discovered a LUMP on her breast, but after visiting her doctor she was told she was ‘too young’ for cancer and given ANTIBIOTICS – until a biopsy revealed she was STAGE FOUR.
Samantha Reid (23) from Virginia, USA, who works for a computer security company, was celebrating Valentine’s Day a day late on Friday 15, February 2019 when she noticed tenderness in her breast as her boyfriend, Gray (22) hugged her.
Samantha went to check everything was okay, but she felt a large lump in her breast. She tried not to think anything of it, but by Monday morning the lump was still present, so Samantha arranged a GP appointment for later that day.
The doctor told Samantha that is was likely a cyst or an infected milk duct, despite it being very unlikely as she wasn’t a breastfeeding mother. Samantha was instructed to put a washcloth over the lump twice a day and call back at the end of the week if the lump hadn’t gone. At the end of the appointment, the doctor made a condescending remark questioning whether Samantha was worried it was cancer, as though that was an impossibility.
The washcloth made no difference, so Samantha was then prescribed amoxicillin for five days, but as the lump was still present, Samantha had an ultrasound and a biopsy.
A few days later, Samantha received a call from the breast surgeon telling her she had breast cancer and she should come back to the hospital that day to discuss her diagnosis. The cancer had spread to multiple lymph nodes and one of her ribs, making it stage four. She started IVF egg retrieval and then started chemotherapy on April 5 until July 26.
Samantha often gets told by people that she is ‘too young’ to have cancer, so she tries not to tell people about her stage four cancer diagnosis because she knows how they will react.
“I found the lump on Friday, February 15 after our family Valentine’s Day dinner. My boyfriend and I were watching TV, and he started hugging me tightly. I noticed my left breast was sensitive and told him to stop squeezing so tight,” Samantha said.
“I didn’t think anything of it until I noticed there was a pretty large, warm lump. I wasn’t worried about it and figured it would go away on its own. I knew it was very common for young women to have a lot of cysts.
“If you just looked at the breast in the mirror, it looked identical to the other side, which is probably why I never noticed the lump before. I thought that if it was something serious, it would be obvious. When the lump was just as big on Monday morning, I decided to make a doctor’s appointment.
“I was told it was probably either a cyst or an infection of the milk ducts. The doctor told me to place a warm cloth over the lump two to three times a day. I was told to call her back on Friday, February 22, if there wasn’t a difference in the size of the lump because they may need to prescribe an antibiotic.
“I didn’t have any reason not to believe her. She told me that type of infection mostly happened to women who were breastfeeding, but it wasn’t impossible that it could happen to me.
“Near the end of the appointment she said, ‘did you come here because you were worried about cancer?’ It sounded condescending and I didn’t appreciate it at the time because I didn’t go to the doctor to be made fun of.
“After the washcloth didn’t work, I was prescribed amoxicillin. Obviously, amoxicillin doesn’t cure cancer either, so after five days of that, my doctor scheduled me for an ultrasound.
“At the ultrasound, the radiologist came in and said he’d never seen cancer in a 22-year-old. Breast cancer was already one of the last things on my mind, but since all the medical professionals were talking about it like it would never happen, I pretty much ruled it out.
“I think doctors see so many patients and they can be blinded by statistics instead of looking at each case individually. They were all focused on the fact that it was so unlikely for me to have breast cancer at my age that they kind of brushed it off as something not to worry about. But I am an individual, somebody has to be that one in a million.
“The radiologist told me I could make an appointment for a biopsy to get more information. I decided to try for an appointment that day since I was already there.
“I sometimes wonder what would have happened if there wasn’t an appointment available that day. I might have left the hospital thinking everything was ok and not scheduled an appointment until things got worse.”
Samantha opted against a double mastectomy because a lumpectomy had a faster recovery period, allowing her to start radiation sooner, beginning on September 23, for 33 days focused on her breasts and lymph nodes, then five days for her rib.
“The initial diagnosis was from the breast surgeon and she couldn’t give me many details over the phone until I came into the hospital later that day. The news didn’t faze me, I kind of accepted it as a new part of my life. It wasn’t until I realised the effect my diagnosis would have on other people that I got upset,” she said.
“I went through IVF egg retrieval which took a couple weeks, it was something I never expected to do at 22 before I was married or starting to think about kids.
“Chemotherapy was rough. I would sleep all day, wake up and still be tired. It felt like I was in a dream. Some other side effects were nausea, dizziness, hot flashes, nose bleeds, neuropathy, and so much more.
“My hair began falling out two weeks after my first treatment, so I decided to get a buzz cut and a few weeks later, I shaved it completely. My last chemo was July 26 and I had some time to gain strength before my lumpectomy and lymph node removal in August.
“Radiation was easier than chemotherapy, I had some fatigue and redness on the areas they were treating. It’s like getting a sunburn, but you don’t get to go back inside and let yourself heal, you keep going back into the sun and getting burnt on the exact same spot.
“I’d love to know what the prognosis is, but I don’t. We’re going for a cure, but since I was stage four it’s less likely. So far things are encouraging and I’m hoping my February scans are clear.
“The most common reaction I get is, ‘I’m so sorry. You’re too young to be dealing with cancer.’ This statement confused me at first as I’m not the only young person to have cancer. Children much younger than me are fighting cancer too.
“I certainly feel like I can handle the treatment, but, that’s not what people mean. They mean I’m too young to have the mindset that comes with cancer. For example, instead of thinking that I’m young and have plenty of time, I find myself thinking that I don’t know how much longer I have to feel healthy. That’s not a normal mindset for a 23-year-old.
“I’m so lucky to have the family and friends I have; they’ve kept me strong throughout this journey. After I got my cancer diagnosis, I realised there were a lot of things I used to worry about that didn’t matter. I learned it was important to take time for myself and to be selfish sometimes.
“Cancer taught me a lesson on empathy and judging. It made me realise that I can try to understand what another person is going through, but I won’t ever know their full story and so it’s never my place to judge them.”
To see more, visit www.instagram.com/samanthalynn_r