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Kate’s Story: When Cancer Kicks You, Kick Back

Kate Leyder was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2022. Genetic testing showed she has a BRCA 2 gene mutation, which impacts her treatment decisions and the risk to family members.

I am fighting breast cancer at 39. It came out of nowhere. I never felt a lump or had any pain. An MRI for emergency gallbladder surgery saved my life – that MRI picked up a mass in my right breast.

I had a follow-up mammogram, an ultrasound and biopsy, and learned my one mass was actually two masses and both were malignant (cancerous). I have stage 2, grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma with metastasis to surrounding lymph nodes. I also learned I have a bonus BRCA2 gene mutation.

Head spinning yet? Mine still is.

I was familiar with the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genetic mutations, but I did not know how much carrying a genetic mutation would impact my cancer treatment. I went from thinking I would need a lumpectomy to suddenly needing a much more aggressive treatment plan. It’s never ending with a BRCA2 gene mutation.

My breast surgeon recommended that I have a bilateral mastectomy because the gene mutation I carry increases the risk of a new primary breast cancer in the other breast and other cancers. It was time to say goodbye to my murderous D cup ta-tas. In March 2022, I had a double mastectomy with partial reconstruction. I ended up developing necrosis in my right breast that required an additional surgery – the expander in my right breast was deflated, leaving me looking not so very asymmetrical, which was not a confidence booster.

I’m currently going through chemo now and it has been a complete rollercoaster – and not the fun kind.

Kate & kids

I still have a long road ahead of me. Once I finish chemo infusions, I will have 4-6 weeks of radiation, a complete hysterectomy and breast reconstruction. I also have a whole list of yearly preventive testing I have to get done because of the BRCA2 gene mutation.

My advice would be:

  • Fight like hell and don’t give up.
  • Climb one mountain at a time. Try not to focus on the whole picture or it will defeat you. Right now, I’m climbing Mount Chemo and that’s all I’m focused on.
  • Find a support system. The only way I am getting through this is with my family and friends and my faith in God. My family has been my biggest support. My mom has taken care of me from the start – as caregiver, therapist, personal chef., etc. My parents taking care of me during treatment allowed my husband to continue working and caring for our two kids. Every high and low, he’s been there. Nothing tests a marriage like cancer, but it’s made us stronger.
  • Join support groups – there are so many awesome groups out there. Honestly, these groups have saved my life. I’ve spent countless hours talking to women all over the world with different types of breast cancers. It’s so uplifting to know you aren’t alone. The women in these groups get it. They’ve been there.
  • And when cancer kicks you, kick back.

Click here to learn more about breast cancer risk.

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.