Tiffany Sikes


My self exam saved my life. In 2013 I was in my last year of graduate school, planning my final experiments in the lab and preparing to write my thesis. I had just won an award for a research poster I presented at a conference and I could finally see the light at the end of that dismal graduate school tunnel. Then in April, I was diagnosed with triple positive invasive ductal carcinoma. I’m young so the cancer was aggressive and with that diagnosis I was at the hospital or doctors office just about everyday until I started chemo. Cancer is scary at first. There’s all the questions; why me, what did I do, how could this happen. My family was baffled. There’s almost no history of cancer in either my mother’s or father’s family. I quickly learned family history has little say in the matter. It was a whirlwind, and I don’t often think about it. I found the lump while doing a not so routine self exam in the shower. The last self exam I did was probably months ago at that point. And I only did them when the thought crossed my mind, it didn’t matter where I was in my cycle. So with the first swipe I found the lump. Startled, I checked again and again and a sinking feeling grew in my gut. I had a pretty strong feeling this was bad. I went to the school nurse because at the time they were my primary care. I rarely needed a doctor. I was young and healthy but thank the lord I had the sense to get student health insurance through the graduate school. At first, the nurse couldn’t find the lump. I had to sit up and show her. Then, she wanted me to wait a month and come back. Haha! I’m glad I pursued the matter. Two days later I had my first of many visits to the imaging center, a biopsy confirmed my suspicion and the flurry of appointments ensued. The experience wasn’t terrible. I met so many amazing people. I was also lucky. There were no lymph nodes involved and it appears I found the cancer fairly early. I decided to have both my breasts removed. Mainly for my peace of mind. I have too much life to live, and I’d be so paranoid if I kept those things hanging around. I do not regret getting rid of my breasts, they were trying to kill me. Although life sort of came to a halt, I still finished graduate school and defended my thesis just short of one year after my diagnosis. I wasn’t going to let the cancer take me down with it. I was going to fight, stay positive and become a survivor. Everyday I thank God I did that not so routine self exam in the shower. It saved my life! I hope that all women, young and old realize the importance of these self exams. It could very well save your life too. Love always, Tiffany ‪#‎breastcancerawareness