Hello Friends! My name is Jessica Wagner and I was diagnosed with triple negative stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 25.  I wanted to share my story to help other women (and men) recognize the value in early detection.  I was diagnosed 2.5 months ago and to be honest- the timing couldn’t have been worse. Of course there Is no good time to get cancer, but I was 3 weeks from starting a new job and 7 weeks from getting married when I received the news. As I’m sure many of you know, one of those things separately could be a lot to handle so I was in for a big surprise when I got the news.

Let me start with how I found my tumor.  I was laying in bed one evening and had my hand over my head and felt an itch on the side of my breast- I scratched it, then realized I hadn’t done a self breast exam in a while so I figured I should probably do one.  That itch probably saved my life.  I know before all of this I was lazy with self exams because I was always wondering “would I even feel it if there was something there?” “what is it supposed to feel like?” “how do I know if it’s something concerning when I DO feel something?”.   Well let me tell you- I knew. I’m not sure how, but I knew. I felt a pea sized lump on my left breast and didn’t think that much of it. I checked the other side and it was definitely different and so I decided to schedule a doctors appointment.  It took me over a month to get into the doctor as they were in no rush because young women get cysts in their breasts all the time and it was no big deal.  I called my mom crying when my appointment was rescheduled for the third time because the pea sized lump was now so big I could see it in the mirror and it was very painful.  My mom was a little upset I hadn’t called her sooner but she called the doctor and demanded I was seen the next day.  Once at the doctor’s office they did an ultrasound and said they thought I had a cyst but I questioned them because my background in biology told me cysts should be round and the image I was looking at on the screen was irregularly shaped and had cell masses in and around it. I was able to get an order to get a biopsy and that’s when things started to get crazy.

I went in for an ultrasound to confirm I needed a biopsy at the women’s center. They called an additional doctor in and several nurses to look at the ultrasound they were performing. I didn’t even ask how it looked because in my heart I knew.  The doctor said well I’m going to ask we get a mammogram from you today.  2 mammograms and 3 ultrasounds later they pulled me aside into a private waiting room and said they had someone they’d like me to speak with.  At this point I knew the news was probably not great- but we hadn’t done a biopsy yet and just because it was a tumor didn’t mean it was malignant so I was still hoping for the best.  The nurse pulled me into her office and discussed how the doctors were concerned with what they were seeing so they wanted to do a biopsy as soon as possible. 2 hours later I was in the clinic having the procedure done. 3 days later I got the call- “Ms. Wagner, we don’t have all of the results in but we wanted to call to let you know that you have invasive ductal carcinoma. Do you have any questions?”  I was driving up to northern virginia to hop on a plane to go to my bachelorette party and I was hoping this phone call would be the all clear to ensure a fun weekend. Unfortunately it was not.  Over the next few days the nurses would call me as they gathered additional info.  Estrogen receptor negative. Grade 3. Progestrone receptor negative. HER negative. Let the doctors appointments begin.

One thing I’ve noticed is that once you get some critical illness like cancer doctors start treating you differently.  I have never before received a business card from a health care provider but now every appointment I went to the doctors themselves personally gave me their cards and words of encouragement.

3.5 months and 7 weeks of chemo later I am now happily married and carrying on the best I can! Cancer can take a lot of things from you, but I will not let it take the love I have for my husband and all of the amazing support I’ve had from friends and family. Please check yourself, had I waited my aggressive cancer may have taken away the opportunity to marry the man of my dreams. Don’t worry about if you will know if a self exam is normal or not. If you’re not sure- go talk to your doctor and be sure to get your screenings done. Early detection saves lives!

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