Meet Kristy, Breast Cancer Survivor + Mother of Two
Let’s start with an introduction of yourself...
Hi, I’m Kristy! and I'm a 42 year old breast cancer survivor. I’m married to my best friend and together we have two kids (ages 7 & 5). I work in marketing and love it, especially because my position is remote and allows me to be at home with my kids more.
Thanks Kristy! Okay, lots to unpack already. Let’s jump right in! So what came first in your story; kids or your cancer diagnosis?
Cancer came first. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 when I was only 29.
Do you have a family history of cancer or what led to your diagnosis at such a young age?
It was not on my radar AT ALL. I have no history of breast cancer in my family, so it wasn’t something I had even thought about.
The way I found out was kind of a fluke. I was sitting on the couch watching tv and I was just randomly feeling along my bra line, and I felt a lump. I froze. I didn’t even want to touch it again and I kept thinking, “what the hell was that?”
After trying to convince myself that it was probably nothing, I eventually got it checked out and a lumpectomy confirmed that it was cancer.
Okay, so you have a breast cancer diagnosis at the very young age of 29 and suddenly your whole life is turned on its side. Let’s talk about cancer treatments and fertility. Was that brought up during your treatment planning? And was having kids even something you were wanting for your future self?
Yes, my oncologist discussed the risks that chemo would have on my fertility and offered me the option to have my eggs frozen before I started treatment. The type of chemo that I was treated with isn’t known to be invasive to reproductive organs, but no there were no guarantees. It was a lot to think about and decide so quickly.
I was in a relationship at the time I was diagnosed, but we had only been together for a year or two, so we weren’t at the point of wanting kids yet and I ended up rejecting the option to freeze my eggs.
Can you share a little bit about your treatment plan and what happened next? Obviously, you are healthy now, HUGE congrats by the way, but we know the journey to get to today wasn’t that simple.
Gosh, I have to think back. It’s funny how you forget the hardest times. Maybe that’s a good thing!
Okay, so I had my lumpectomy in 2009 where the main lump was removed (and tested and confirmed cancerous) and then I had my double mastectomy in 2010, followed by four months of chemo.
There were several other follow-up surgeries and therapies in the years following but I am so grateful to be cancer free today.
I have the chills over here! I’m so happy for you. You are incredible. Okay, so I’m dying to know what happened to the boyfriend and when your babies enter the picture...
Haha. Well, about 5 or 6 years later I told him that I wanted to start trying for a baby. He was taking way too long to propose, I wasn’t getting any younger and after watching so many friends struggle with infertility and loss, I wanted to get the party started.
We got pregnant immediately. (!!!)
He went from being so indecisive to being SO excited. I, on the other hand, was scared out of my mind and could not believe it happened so easily – and so fast.
That’s amazing! Did you have to treat your pregnancy in a more sensitive manner being a cancer survivor?
Luckily, no, not in my case. Although my OB/GYN was concerned about blood clots because of my history with blood clots after my mastectomy, so I was put on blood thinners which meant I had to give myself a shot 2x a day in my stomach. It wasn’t too bad.
I want to touch on breastfeeding, or NOT breastfeeding, rather. How was that mentally and emotionally for you? Or was it even an issue?
Well, my double mastectomy removed everything, nipple and all. It seemed apparent that nursing was not an option. Even with nipple sparring, it doesn’t allow for function.
We looked into milk banks and alternative resources, but we ended up bottle feeding with formula, and it was great. You just have to do what is best for you. Our pediatrician reassured us that “fed is best.”
Bottle feeding was actually really helpful for my relationship with my husband because we both got to bond with our baby in the same way, as opposed to me exclusively nursing. We shared responsibilities, and I got the opportunity to get more sleep and recover in the early post-partum days.
I can’t say or speak to what breastfeeding is like, but there’s nothing like those quiet moments in the middle of the night, just you and your newborn and you are taking care of that need for them. Bottle or breast, it's all wonderful.