Being 23 and Told You Have Breast Cancer

The following is a personal story from Justine, an ambassador of MyBCTeam, the social network for women facing breast cancer, and full-time graduate student. Below she shares her thoughts on her unique journey and the resources that help her along the way. If you’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer, go to and connect with other women who ‘get it.’ Thousands of women from all over the country are here to share not only their stories, but their daily lives: the good days and bad days of living with breast cancer. 


“So the doctor just wanted to let you know about some support groups…”

JustineThat’s how I found out I had cancer on July 30, 2012 at approximately 9am.

Just like most women, I found my lump by accident. However, one of the differences between myself and most women facing breast cancer is that I was 23 years-old at the time with no family history of any cancers on either my maternal or paternal side.  I mean, what 23 year-old gets cancer?!  Just like everyone else, I went in for an ultrasound (because my gynecologist was awesome and thorough) and a mammogram which all came back abnormal and resulted in a biopsy.  As I waited for the results of my biopsy, I researched about the different types of breast cancer resources that are available out there. I just had a feeling that I had breast cancer, I guess sometimes your body just knows.

So let’s go back to that dreadful day.  I received a call from my breast surgeon’s office, which I had a scheduled appointment with the next day to talk about the results of my (at the time hoping it was benign) biopsy.  I was told I should come in that day (rather than the next day) at any time to talk about my results.  I was told I was the V.I.P. that day and to come in whenever I could.  Essentially, I was being told (without being told how bad) that I had cancer.  I was freaking out. I called my parents who literally left work a minute after I touched base with both of them so that we could go to my breast surgeon’s office to find out, at this point, what we all knew.  However, I was still trying to convince myself that my results were benign.  Then I got a call from my gynecologist’s office.  The receptionist, very sweetly informs me that, “So the doctor just wanted to let you know about some support groups.” I dropped to the floor and told the receptionist (very rudely mind you) that I needed to go.  There was no denying it now, I had cancer, I just didn’t know how bad it was.

I started to scream, and I just could not stop screaming.  I was crying and screaming and wondering if all of this was real.

I was diagnosed with Stage 0 DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma in Situ), although I was later re-diagnosed as Stage I IDC (Invasive Ductal Carcinoma) after my bilateral mastectomy.  That time between talking to my breast surgeon and getting that call was the scariest of my life.  Being told I had cancer was the hardest thing I have been told, I was so angry and felt so alone.  I went back to one of those breast cancer support resources and utilized it throughout my treatment.  It was comforting in that I was able to share my story with women who were going through the same thing that I was.  It made me feel understood and that my emotions were important/similar to others.

I was unfortunate in that I did not find MyBCTeam until after I had almost completed treatment.  However, I use this social network more now than I ever used the other breast cancer resource I initially used.  MyBCTeam is user-friendly in that the mobile app allows me to update my own page, add/see who has added me to their team, and do all of this while on-the-go.  I am a graduate student (going for my Master’s in Psychology then my Ph.D.) who is always extremely busy.

The MyBCTeam app allows me to remain engaged in a world (especially on bad days) that no one else can necessarily understand.  Women with breast cancer typically say that they belong to a “club” that no one wants to be a part of.  While we may not want to be a part of this club, we are and must deal with that.  I find, now that I have completed surgery/treatment, that I am drawn to speaking to other women to help them through their own experiences.  Providing support for other women helps me process all I have dealt with in the past year.  Processing having had breast cancer is continual, it does not end when treatment/surgery concludes.  However, speaking about these feelings in the form of positive or negative posts, really helps me get through.

My hope is to bring another face to breast cancer.  While someone’s mom, aunt, or grandmother may be diagnosed with breast cancer, I want people to realize that young women can be victims too.  I want people to see my face when they hear the words breast cancer. I also want younger women to realize that we can be resources too.  Our stories matter, and only by making ourselves known can we bring awareness to that fact.

Join today and find support from more than 5,000 women who knew what it means to face breast cancer. 

Sign up for MyBCTeam


One thought on “Being 23 and Told You Have Breast Cancer

  1. You are an inspiration to others. Your experience, wisdom and compassion are the greatest gifts you will share with the world–for a long, long, long time.

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