Megan May knew her family history meant she was at a greater risk of developing breast cancer. She prepared as best as she could and underwent regular screenings. However, her diagnosis in 2019 still came as a shock. This is her story in her own words.
A breast cancer diagnosis isn’t something you can fully prepare for, no matter how hard you try.
When I was in my 20s, my maternal grandma and aunt were both diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t concerned with my personal risk at the time, but my mom made sure she was getting regular screenings because of her family history. It still was a shock when she learned that she had breast cancer in 2010. Then, six months after Mom’s diagnosis, another one of her sisters was diagnosed.
Those two back-to-back diagnoses were a wake-up call for me. When I turned 30, I started going in for mammograms and ultrasounds every six months, alternating between the two with each visit. Everything was going along fine until two years in when my doctor noticed a lump during a breast exam. Because of my family history, they recommended surgery to remove it. After the surgery, I continued my screening schedule over the next several years.
Then in 2019, when I was 40, the news I had spent the last 10 years preparing for came. I had breast cancer; more specifically, ductal carcinoma in situ, stage 0. I knew immediately I wanted to move forward with a double mastectomy with reconstruction. I just did not want to have to worry about it anymore. Those last 10 years had been full of biopsies, MRIs, ultrasounds and extra testing. I wanted to be done with it all.
Since the cancer was discovered at such an early stage, my doctors felt that surgery would take care of the disease. I wouldn’t need chemotherapy, radiation or post-treatment with tamoxifen. But my breast cancer had other plans.
The pathology report came back, showing that the cancer had been located far back on my chest wall. They removed everything they could but still worried that there might be more cancerous tissue that they couldn’t see. My plan for one surgery turned into five weeks of radiation followed by five years of tamoxifen.
My treatment went well, but radiation really took its toll on my energy levels. Then about a week after I finished radiation, I had a terrible skin reaction. Imagine getting the worst sunburn you can imagine and multiply that by 10.
The most shocking part of all came after I had genetic testing done. Surely that would explain the prevalence of breast cancer on my mother’s side. The results showed that from what is known today, there is no genetic link to breast cancer in my family.
I first became involved with Susan G. Komen when I moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to my mom after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2010. I’m a pharmacist with Walgreens, and our stores are always incredibly supportive of the MORE THAN PINK Walk. Through my role with Walgreens, I was given the opportunity to serve on my local Komen Leadership Committee and work to encourage participation in the stores across southeastern Wisconsin. I’m lucky to have my actual family and my work family by my side at the Walk every year to celebrate our survivorship and know we are supporting an organization working to find the cures for all breast cancers.
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.