Stories about breast cancer that can inspire and inform

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Erica’s Story: Early Detection is Key

Erica Batterman was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in early 2023. This is her story in her own words.

“Early detection is key.” We’ve all heard that phrase before, but little did I know I was about to embark on a journey that would teach me the true value of early detection. January 17, 2023, is a date forever etched in my memory. Just six months earlier, my husband Brent had undergone urgent open heart surgery. The past year has been filled with unexpected twists and turns.

January 17 is the day the dreaded ‘C’ word was uttered, and I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Yet, despite the fear it brought, I consider myself incredibly fortunate. Why? Because I had caught it early, thanks to my annual mammogram.

Rewind to December 2021, when my mammogram showed a clean bill of health. However, December 2022 told a different story – “suspicious findings” were detected. This led to a series of follow-up tests: a second mammogram, a sonogram and ultimately a biopsy. Then, the call came, confirming my worst fear.

What makes my case even more remarkable is that I had no symptoms whatsoever. Not a single lump or bump could be felt. It was only the mammogram that tipped us off to the hidden cancerous lump lurking within.

My diagnosis: stage 1 mucinous carcinoma grade 1. My doctor even referred to it as a rare unicorn cancer, and while I avoid googling it to prevent undue anxiety, I’ve learned that it accounts for only about 2% of all breast carcinomas, typically found in women over age 75. At 39, I seemed an unlikely candidate.

Thankfully, I caught it at an early stage. Good news: stage one! This is solely due to early detection. Ladies, this is your sign to make your appointment if you have been on the fence!

The treatment plan given to me was clear. First, surgery to remove the cancer, scheduled for February 2023. Following that, radiation for four weeks, Monday through Friday, starting in April after a full recovery from surgery. And then, oncology treatment involving estrogen/hormone blockers because my type of cancer thrives on estrogen (HER2 positive). The goal: to be on tamoxifen for the next five years if all goes well.

No chemotherapy, thankfully. But I’ll admit, I’ve struggled the most about the estrogen blockers, even though early detection gave me the chance to avoid more invasive treatments. After I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt like my body was failing me because my lifestyle choices that I embraced after college – exercising, eating healthfully – seemed like they let me down.After college, I discovered my love for cooking and recipe development. Completely self-taught, it became a hobby of mine. But it didn’t stop there; my family and friends noticed my passion, so much so that I found myself creating personalized meal plans and healthier versions of recipes, which I lovingly shared with them. I even dabbled in a meal-prep service.

As I delved deeper into the culinary world, I came to realize that healthier food choices had a significant impact on every aspect of my life. Beyond being a newfound joy, my exploration of whole foods and minimizing sugar and processed foods started to heal my acne from the inside out. So, I took my passion to a whole new level and started a recipe development Instagram account to share my joy of cooking and recipes with others which is still active today. 

My breast cancer diagnosis brought on a roller coaster of emotions. I cried, I questioned, I even b*tched about the unfairness of it all. But through it all, I’ve learned invaluable lessons. The past year has been a journey of discovery and I’m still learning. The most significant takeaway: life has its own agenda, and being a planner, that was hard to accept. But I’m choosing to stay positive, expressing gratitude and seeking happiness wherever I can find it.

I’m giving myself grace, realizing that I can’t control everything, but I can control how I respond. My body is not a dumpster and stress will not consume me. I’ve had my moments of vulnerability, but in some ways, I feel stronger and more connected to life.

I hope my story sheds light on the importance of early detection. Being proactive with your health, getting regular screenings and not taking anything for granted are paramount. Life is unpredictable and sometimes we need to buckle up and face the ride with courage and resilience.

Together, we can raise awareness and encourage others to prioritize their health. Early detection is key – it saved my life and it can save countless others. I hope that countless others, whether newly diagnosed or in survivor mode like me, reading this, can wholeheartedly embrace strength, vulnerability and hope.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.