CYB @College – Success Stories

Breast Cancer Success Stories

Good evening, everyone. I am so sorry to miss this very special night. I have always prided myself on staying as normal as possible while fighting cancer. That said, sometimes it is impossible to hide from the stark realities of living with Stage IV breast cancer.

Every week for the past seven years I have gone diligently to chemotherapy appointments. I am thankful for these drugs that have kept me alive and happy for seven years. These drugs also, however, wreak havoc on my immune system and I couldn’t imagine making a cross country trip. While I cannot be with you in person tonight, I don’t want to miss an opportunity to say thank you. Thank you all for supporting the work of Check Your Boobies.

My story is living proof that, even in the year 2012, every day young women like me slip through the cracks. I never heard a story like mine. I had no idea that young women could get breast cancer. I also, incorrectly, assumed that everyone who gets breast cancer has a family history. It wasn’t until AFTER my diagnosis that I found out 90% of new cancer cases have no family history. It wasn’t until AFTER my diagnosis that I found out that, according to the American Cancer Society, in 2009 roughly 18,600 women younger than age 45 were diagnosed with breast cancer.

If I had known these statistics, if I had heard a story from another young cancer survivor, if Check Your Boobies had come to my college campus, I know I would have handled my own breast lump differently. The moment I found it, I would have felt empowered to insist upon a mammogram. Instead, I waited. I put my head in the sand and reassured myself that everything was fine. When a nurse fulfilled those hopes and told me just to watch the lump, I eagerly agreed, and I waited seven months to get a mammogram. My cancer is extremely aggressive; those seven months might not have made any difference in my Stage IV diagnosis, but we will never know for sure.

What I do know for sure is that, every single day for the past seven years, I have wondered. How different my life would be if this cancer had been caught early? In the past seven years I have had more than 10 cancer recurrences, I have had seven surgeries, 32 rounds of radiation, and been on 15 different chemotherapy drugs. Every day, the words “incurable” and “terminal” ring in my ears. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I had taken my lump more seriously. I know all too well what it means to not have a cure for breast cancer.

When cancer is caught early, 98% of women survive, but when cancer is caught late, that survival rate drops to less than 20%. With Stage IV breast cancer, the doctors give me the best drugs available today and then we wait and watch and hope and pray. The doctors do the best that they can, but often, the best is not enough. I believe that breast cancer will kill me, not today, not tomorrow, but someday.

I don’t want any other young woman to share these burdens of fear and doubt. I don’t want any other young woman to die, needlessly. Check Your Boobies shares that passion with me. Most young people who attend these parties will not develop breast cancer at a young age. I know my story is very rare. But my story is not impossible, and if I can save one life, than my own life will have been worth it. Without your contributions today, the Check Your Boobies program wouldn’t be possible and some other young woman would be diagnosed too late. Every young woman deserves a chance to catch her breast cancer early when it is most curable.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. You all have many other places where you could be and things you could be doing this evening, but instead you have chosen to spend your night fighting breast cancer. You have chosen to fight with me. Because of my misdiagnosis, because I did not check my boobies, I will never have children, I will never have the pleasure of watching my husband grow old and gray. My life will be cut short.

I don’t know when the cancer will win, but whenever that day comes, it is a great comfort to know that I am not alone. All of you are fighting alongside me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You might not save my life, but you will save the life of some other woman. If I can save one life, my struggle will have been worthwhile. My life will have meant something.

Bridget Spence
June, 2012

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