Melissa Girard



At the age of 32, I was diagnosed with Invasive Ductal Carcinoma State IIA Breast Cancer. I was single, living and working in Manhattan. I exercised regularly and ate healthy; I was enjoying my life. I went for my annual examine at Murray Hill OBGYN, the nurse practitioner felt the first lump. She sent me to a Dr. Plesser, Radiologist. I had numerous mammograms, sonograms and unfortunately several biopsies. So, it turned out that I had 3 lumps in my right breast. Two were at Stage 0 and non-invasive but the third looked suspicious, my doctor was unable to biopsy it at that point because my breast was so sore, bleeding and black and blue. At this point I was not surprised but the thought that my cancer had spread was unthinkable as two lumps were a 0. Breast Cancer did run in my family; my paternal and maternal grandmothers both had Breast Cancer. My head was spinning, I had to see a genetic counselor and I had to make a very big decision. Do I have a bi-lateral or a double mastectomy? I decided on the bi-lateral mastectomy. I also tested negative for BRACA1 and BRACA2. At the time of my surgery I had expanders put in so that I could have reconstructive surgery. I also found out that my cancer had spread to 1 Main Lymph Node. I couldn’t deal with the thought of losing my hair and the reality that I may not be able to have children. So now I was faced with another decision, do I see a fertility specialist? My head is spinning and I’m trying to come to terms with the fact that my entire life just changed because I had cancer; I also needed to find an Oncologist. After seeing a fertility specialist, I had 3 choices; egg freezing, freeze an embryo or take the chance that I may actually be able to have children when this journey was over. It was all too much, although having children was extremely important to me. The Egg freezing was too risky and I didn’t have a significant other, therefore; I didn’t want to freeze an embryo. My treatment was 8 rounds of chemo; ACT. The Thursday before my 2nd treatment, my hair started falling out. That weekend, my head had to be shaved; this was the worst day of my life, or so I thought at the time. I bought wigs and tried to carry on as normal as possible. It was a battle and I was not going to let this change my life completely. What a struggle, I could no longer run down the street and drop into the gym. I wouldn’t go anywhere without my wig and I was scared. No one can possibly imagine what you go through as a woman having breast cancer: hair loss, saline shots, chemo, losing your breast and early menopause. Not to mention any complications and side effects from treatment. It’s all exhausting, difficult and unfair. The good news is that I got through it. Although, I don’t think that a day goes by that I don’t think about my cancer and if it will come back. I am very lucky to have had such supportive family and friends during that difficult time. Fourteen years later, I am cancer free with a beautiful 9-year-old son. It turns out that I was able to have a child without the help of a fertility specialist. I went off my tamoxifen to get pregnant and am now taking it for 10 consecutive years. Melissa Girard