I’m Carolyn, the Branch Manager of our Ultimate Staffing office in Houston, TX. Although my story doesn’t have a happy ending, I feel I need to share it with you. Connie would have wanted that.
She was my baby sister, the youngest of 5 girls. A spunky personality and infectious laugh.
At 29 years old, she was married and a mother of two, Emily, 5, and Garrett, a new baby of 7 months. When she was nursing Garrett one morning, she noticed a slightly painful lump in her breast. She did as many do and put it in the back of her mind; she soon became pregnant with her 3rd child. At an OBGYN visit, she mentioned the lump. She was told that she likely had fibrocystic breast disease and was “too young for breast cancer”. Of course this was the news she wanted to hear. But, as the baby grew inside her, so did the lump in her breast. Five months later, she and her husband decided to go in for a mammogram, ultrasound and a second opinion.
It was February 2007. The doctor rolled his chair up to my sister who was sitting on the exam table and put his hand on her hand and said “Connie, I don’t like to beat around the bush, I don’t want to tell you this, but I am 99.9% sure that we are dealing with a cancer here.” She was like a deer in the headlights, too shocked to speak, too afraid to ask questions.
She had a biopsy the next day; by the end of that week, she was in surgery for a quick mastectomy. On Valentine’s Day of 2007 she was officially diagnosed with at least Stage 3 invasive breast cancer. She was pregnant and they couldn’t risk hurting her baby doing imaging to see if this cancer was a Stage 4.
She was asked to consider terminating the pregnancy so she could have life-saving chemo and radiation. She was 4 1/2 months pregnant. She very bravely answered “I cannot terminate this pregnancy, this baby is moving inside of me and I couldn’t do that to him and live with myself”. Over the next 3 months, she received a chemo that wouldn’t pass the placenta. She had her son Connor prematurely in May of 2007; they took him early once they knew his lungs were developed enough so that they could begin aggressive treatment and gauge just how far the cancer had spread.
Over the next 3 years, Connie went through the ups and downs of living with a cancer diagnosis; we had one great year where she was in remission, she grew her hair back, she was cancer free, we celebrated. When it returned, it returned with a vengeance. During her last 6 months of life, she prepared her children for her passing. She planted little “mommy kisses” in the palm of each of their hands and then closed them tightly into a fist. “If you ever need a kiss from mommy, you only need to open your hand and it will be there”. Sadly, we lost her in February of 2010. We miss Connie greatly and the loss of her in our lives is felt daily.
I am sharing her story with you, in hopes that you will not believe a common myth, that breast cancer cannot strike young women. Connie would want me to tell you to follow your gut instinct that something is wrong and to get a second opinion. She would want me to tell you that there is a higher rate of cure if caught early and less chance to spread. She would want me to share with you that no one is immune and that even young women, and in some cases, young men, can be stricken with this awful disease. If her story can save even one life, then her death was not in vain.