Lucie Duffy had no family history of breast cancer and was under 40 when she was diagnosed with invasive carcinoma and DCIS. This is her story in her own words.
On Monday, July 25, 2022, the doctor who reviewed my mammogram results didn’t sugarcoat it or give me any false hope. He was simple and straightforward with his response, “I’ve seen enough scans at this point in my career to know what cancer looks like,” he said. “I will not give you any false hope, but there’s a 99% chance this comes back as cancer.”
The next day, I was back in the office for a biopsy with tears streaming down my face. The thoughts going through my mind were, “What does this mean for me? I have an 18-month-old son. What does this mean for my future to even have another child? Is this a death sentence?”
Over and over in my head, I replayed the thought of my baby boy growing up without his mom — the child that I fought so hard to have. He was my little miracle who came at a time when I’d lost hope.
My son wasn’t my first pregnancy; he was my second. I lost our first baby halfway through my pregnancy at five months. A baby girl, already so loved, whom I never had the chance to hold in my arms. The closest I came to her was a piece of paper with her tiny footprints on it that was given to me when I was discharged from the hospital.
Afterwards, I suffered from anxiety and depression. I would wake up in the middle of the night panicked, holding my stomach, searching for a kick to feel her still in me. I cried endlessly and didn’t get out of bed. I thought to myself, “Why and what did I do to deserve this?” It took many sessions of therapy to become functional and to be able to say, “I’m okay.”
Months later, I was pregnant again, but this time it was different. I felt different and it was easier. He was consistently measuring large, or as they would tell me at my ultrasounds, he was healthy. I gave birth to a 9 pound 6 ounce, 22-inch baby boy. He became my world, my universe. While I experienced a lot of guilt being so happy to have him, I still grieved the loss of my daughter. At the time, I thought this was the most difficult thing I would ever have to endure. Life has a funny way of proving you wrong.
While I waited for my biopsy results, I felt numb. On Thursday, July 28, it was confirmed. I had breast cancer in my right breast that was both estrogen and progesterone positive, measuring at 1.17 cm. I received the call from my OBGYN who had been monitoring the portal all day for the pathology labs to post. I was grateful that it was her who called. I’ll never forget her voice, “This is just bullsh*t and I’m so sorry to even have to say this…but it’s cancer.” She quickly pivoted to telling me the good news, that this is the most common type of breast cancer and it responds well to treatment. She reminded me that it wasn’t a death sentence and was thankful that we caught it early. Despite delivering this devastating news, she gave me hope.
My OBGYN gave me recommendations for surgical oncology, medical oncology and radiation oncologists. She told me that if it took longer than two weeks to get an appointment, to call her. I felt some relief knowing I had her monitoring my path forward, making sure I had all of the necessary resources. The best advice she gave me regarding navigating this process was to advocate for myself — asking for direct phone numbers to departments and scheduling and if there are waitlists available to move up appointments. I scheduled an appointment with my surgeon on August 1 and began the grueling process of checking off the boxes of seemingly endless appointments.
While going through testing, I kept wondering how I got breast cancer. I have no known history of cancer in my family. I do not carry the BRCA gene mutation. I wasn’t over the age of 40 and I felt no lump or mass. Other than my mammogram coming back showing the cancerous area, I would have had no idea that I had cancer growing inside of my body. I was one of the lucky ones who caught this early.
When I asked my surgical oncologist if this was a one-off scenario she said, “Unfortunately, no.” I fell into none of those categories, but after hearing a few stories from acquaintances and friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year, I made an appointment for an early mammogram. My proactive decision saved my life.
On October 11, 2022, I went into surgery to remove my cancer. Once cleared from surgery, I worked with the oncofertility team for egg retrieval/preservation. I had 20 rounds of radiation therapy and I’m currently on maintenance therapy with tamoxifen, as well as monthly Lupron injections.
I share my story to encourage you to get a mammogram, even if your doctor says that you don’t need one because you don’t fall into any of the risk categories. I didn’t either.
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.