Diagnosed at 30 Years Old

By Stephanie Garcia

I wasn’t terribly alarmed when I found a lump in my breast during a self-exam. I’d heard of benign cysts and chalked it up to be along those same lines until a couple of months passed, and the lump was still there, possibly more noticeable. I had it checked by my doctor who seemed pretty unconcerned due to my age, however I was sent for a mammogram “just to be safe.” Three days later, I found myself in a breast surgeon’s office having a biopsy on the large (almost 5 cm) tumor that was ultimately found.

On February 14, 2008 I got the life-changing call and diagnosis of Invasive Ductal Carcinoma (breast cancer). I was only 30. My pathology indicated that treatment was necessary and I decided to move forward with a Bi-lateral Mastectomy immediately. I was more devastated by the fact that chemotherapy would most likely rob me of my fertility, than I was of the cancer diagnosis itself. It broke my heart to imagine I may never have children.

After several surgeries, procedures and rounds of chemo were behind me, I was declared cancer free or as we say in cancer land: NED (no evidence of disease). Thankful to have survived more than I thought I would in a lifetime, I tried my hardest to get back to “normal.”  I didn’t quite recognize the monster in the mirror and my body seemed broken. I was grateful to have that second lease on life but my prayers and dreams of becoming a mother never ceased.

Stephanie Six months after my cancer journey was over (it’s never really over) and new hair had begun to sprout atop my head, I found out I was pregnant. What a mind-blowing miracle it was! A positive pregnancy test, surprising my husband with the news, telling our parents – all moments I had dreamed about for years. A typical pregnancy led to our greatest gift when I gave birth to a healthy baby boy. And now at three years old, his sweet voice saying “Mama” still melts my heart every single time.

Since being promoted to Mom I have focused on myself and determined that the only acceptable choice is to be as healthy as I can for my family. My son deserves the best “me” possible and I am determined on leaving cancer no chance to interrupt this beautiful life again. I changed my diet, lost weight, made time to exercise regularly and even found a new love in cycling.

breast-cancer-ribbon This October, I will be returning to California to ride 200 miles for young women affected by breast cancer at Young Survival Coalition’s Tour de Pink. To learn more go to:  www.ysctourdepink.org/goto/stephaniegunngarcia

Cancer can and does happen to young women. If I had waited until the recommended age for mammograms, I would not be here today. I cannot stress the importance of self-exams enough.  If something feels strange or looks different, tell your doctor! Your life depends on it.



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