Shanna Edge


My name is Shanna Edge I am 31 years old. Thank you for allowing me to share my story. Last year at this time I was bald and so sick. I was sitting in a room of women at church listening to a woman speak that also had Breast cancer. It was so hard listening to her story. All I could think of was how lucky she was. She had found her cancer so early she did not need chemo. We can’t stop ourselves from getting cancer. We can work out, we can eat healthy but sometimes bad things just happen and you have to face them. Over and over with breast cancer you hear how early detection is key. My story started when I was in High school. My mom developed breast cancer at age 39. She was ok the first time and then it came back in the other breast. My parents just always told me that it was like having breast cancer twice, it had nothing to do with her having it the first time. She ended up passing away from her reoccurrence at the age of 49. Her breast cancer spread to her liver and lungs. Everything my mom went through is a huge blur, I was a selfish teenager. I did not go to her appointments and I ran from it all. I knew I should start my mammograms younger than the average woman since my mom had passed away of breast cancer. After my husband and I had got married we moved to California and we were trying to get pregnant. I had got my first mammogram and i remember the doctor telling me how important it was to get the gene test done. I remember thinking I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do the test, but i also had no idea what it even was. No one had ever educated me on it. I pretty much thought it told me if I was going to get cancer or not. So i finally was able to get pregnant and had our beautiful son. When he was a year old we moved away from CA to Texas. One morning while Lincoln was asleep I was putting my hair up in the bathroom. In the mirror I saw what looked like extra “fat” by my under arm. I grabbed it and felt a golf ball sized lump. Immediately I just felt like I couldn’t breathe. I called my husband and asked him to come home from work immediately. I even took a shower thinking if they wanted to keep me and remove this huge lump then I will have wish I would have showered. We took my son and we ended up going to my OB. She is also a young woman and she felt it and said “I really just think it’s just from shaving or something, I don’t think it’s anything but since you are here I think we should go ahead and take your blood and do the gene testing given your family history”. She sent me for a mammogram since I was due for one also. The next day I went for my mammogram all the nurses kept saying was “you are so young, you are fine”. They did see a tiny spot on the mammogram that did not look suspicious but next they did an ultrasound to check the lump in my armpit. They immediately knew it was bad. I was at that appointment alone. The radiologist had came in and told me it was either lymphoma, breast cancer or there’s a small chance it could be a crazy infection. I didn’t even call my husband on the way home because I knew I wouldn’t even be able to make it home driving once I told him. I prayed all weekend and waited for the phone call. They called on a Monday night to tell me it was stage 3c breast cancer and it had spread to my lymph nodes. I saw a doctor the next morning. Looking back, I think the doctors we saw the first week were scared of me. A very young girl with aggressive breast cancer and a family history. It is so important throughout life to be your own advocate. We got into MD Anderson the next week. Within a week I started chemo, the lump I thought they might “remove” was so big that we had to try to shrink it with chemo first before removing it. I ended up having the gene. When you have the gene. You can take action before you get to the point of cancer. My moms breast cancer was not “just breast cancer twice”. When you have the gene you have a 60% chance of it occurring in the other breast and you have a 40% chance of developing ovarian cancer. I wish someone would have explained the gene test better to me. I had 16 chemo treatments. 6 months of chemo. My hair had always been my “thing” I washed it and straightened it every single day. One of my first thoughts when I found out I was going to lose my hair was that “I will have more time to spend with my son now”. I always felt so guilty while I was blow drying and straightening my hair and trying to nurse him or play with him. Over the 4th of July weekend last year I knew I was going to lose my hair that week. It was really weird getting ready knowing you would be bald that week. That Monday my husband was at work and I was laying with my son and my hair just started coming out in clumps, it was all over my son. After I got him to sleep I went to the bathroom and got my scissors and clippers out and shaved it all off. I didn’t even cry. I almost felt like I had taken this whole situation in my own hands. I would go bald occasionally but I wore wigs a lot and I still do. Being a hairstylist 8 years prior to this helped a lot. It wasn’t so bad when I first shaved my head but then slowly you loose your eyelashes, your eyebrows and the color in your skin. You just start to look sick. My first 12 chemo treatments weren’t bad, the last 4 were hell. I literally just got to the point where I thought I couldn’t do it anymore. I would go every 3 weeks and throw up for a week after. This was while trying to take care of a house and a 1 year old in a new home with all of our family in Ohio. After chemo I had surgery. They did a left mastectomy. They literally just cut your entire breast off and they removed all of my lymph nodes. I then had 33 radiation treatments. I went into radiation still having cancer in a lymph node in my neck. I was then put into remission, it’s very hard saying I’m cancer free still. The hardest part BY FAR of this journey has been struggling with the risk of the cancer returning. If someone could tell me it wasn’t coming back I could truly say this whole experience has been a blessing. 3 weeks ago I had my preventive surgery. This surgery was to take my right breast off and start reconstruction. Again, even after having my mother go through this i still didn’t really know what reconstructive surgery meant either. This surgery they cut my right breast off and they put plastic expanders under my skin. You literally go in and get them filled to stretch your skin back out to create “breasts”. They also had to take a muscle from my back and move it to the front to help the skin that had been damaged from radiation. This is where early detection comes into play. The earlier you find the cancer the less treatment and the less risk of it reoccurring. This is why I was sitting there last year listening to the cancer survivor and struggling with it. She had found hers when it was very early and had an elective surgery. No chemo and I believe no radiation. I felt like she was so “lucky” even though she also had breast cancer. THIS is why you see shirts saying “get your boobies checked” and “mammogram your boobs instead of instagramming them”. Early detection really is key. I can truly say today though, cancer has made me a better person and a much stronger woman. I used to be the most stressed out anxious person. I did everything to please everyone else and I couldn’t say no. Now I will never take a minute with my husband and son for granted and I truly think I needed every step of this cancer journey to teach me this. I needed to lose my hair and really realize how hard life can really be.