Renee’s Story: Employee and Young Adult Cancer Survivor

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Hey there. I’m not really sure how to write a blog post, but here we go. I’m writing this blog because I am a young adult with cancer, and it is young adult cancer awareness week.

I was already pretty aware of cancer before I was diagnosed in July of last year. I was aware because I have been working with the LAF for the past 9 years, and because I lost my Dad to cancer when I was 20 years old. I was aware enough to immediately go to a doctor when I felt a lump in my breast last June. I was aware enough to ask for a mammogram because that lump just didn’t seem right.

The problem wasn’t with my awareness, the problem was that my doctor wasn’t aware enough of young adult cancer. I was told that I was too young for a mammogram (I was 33). I was told not to worry about it, that the lump was hormonal. I was told to “keep an eye on it” and come back in a month. At the time that was music to my ears. I remember feeling relieved, and a little silly for being so concerned about the hormonal lump in my breast.

I kept my eye (and fingers, and mind) on the lump for the entire month of June. It was still there every day getting bigger. It was still there when I shut my computer down after a long day at work. It was still there after yoga class. It was still there after my hilly run. It was still there when I joined friends for good food, good wine and good conversation. It was still there when I lay in bed at night worrying.

As instructed by a certified medical professional, I waited for a month. At the end of that month it was still there. I was aware enough to seek a second opinion, and I went to a different doctor. When the second doctor felt the lump in my right breast, she looked at me with big, brown, worried eyes that I will never forget. She told me that she was very concerned, and instructed me to get a mammogram and ultrasound ASAP. Fortunately, the second doctor was aware of young adult cancer.

Three whirlwind weeks later, I found myself lying in a hospital room, surrounded by family, friends, flowers, cards, compassion and love. And finally the lump was gone.

Be intuitive and listen to your body.
Be brave enough to seek a second opinion.
Be present in your daily life.
Be aware, and
LIVESTRONG.

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48 thoughts on “Renee’s Story: Employee and Young Adult Cancer Survivor”

  1. Sarah says:

    You are so brave and I LOVE the pictures… I had my mom shave my head when too much of my hair had fallen out, I am 30 years old and am 9 years in remission from Luekemia, and I can still remember how I thought I would look after the buzzcut. I wasn’t exactly as sexy as Demi Moore in GI Jane but I grew to love it, eventually:)
    Thanks fo sharing your story!
    Sarah

  2. Camille says:

    Wonderful story and great advice. Live strong and I hope your orange wig brings joy to you and everyone who sees you–it sure made me smile!

  3. Dear Renee,
    For someone who is unsure how to blog, you offered a powerfully written post with important messages:
    1) You are never “too young.”
    2) If one clinician blows off your concern, assuring you everything is fine without doing the studies needed to know that, get a second or third opinion.
    3) If you do have cancer, you’ll do what you have to do and you can try to have fun with it at the same time (e.g. colorful wigs).

    Wishing you strength, hope, as many moments of happiness as possible in the midst of tough times, and renewed good health.

    With hope, Wendy

  4. Brenda says:

    Renee,
    Great blog sista!! Thanks for sharing your story! Much love from me to you!! BWare

  5. Halley says:

    Renee – Thank you for sharing your story, you are an inspiration!

  6. Schlonge says:

    Renee-You are so georgous! It is great to see that smile of yours that I miss so much! Thanks for the inspiration.

  7. Renee –

    You totally rock. In the years that I have known you, you rocked before cancer, and you rocked during and afterwards as a survivor.

    As part of the Challenge Mentor team, scattered across the country, I can tell you that we were all hit in the gut when we heard of your diagnosis, but knew that you would rebound with the determination, energy and positive that is your trademark.

    Thanks for the great post – I know it will be forwarded to a lot of folks, and it will make a difference.

    See you in Seattle for the Challenge in June, I hope!

    Keep on rocking!

    P.

  8. Jody Schoger says:

    Renee, Thanks so much for your courage, your inspiration and your absolutely fabulous photos!! The orange hair!! Outstanding. And thank you for honoring your instincts. Take care.

  9. Rita says:

    Renee,
    wow! what a voice! You oughta do more blog entries — you really can write!
    and your message is so important — we all know our bodies better than any other person and usually our instincts are right (as yours were and are!)
    You embody LIVESTRONG.

  10. Mike in Tampa says:

    Love the Mohawk pic, but the orange hair is awesome!!!
    You look fantastic….keep up the fight!!!!!!!!

  11. Jacqueline says:

    Your words are so important. My nephew’s wife was told she didn’t need tests for the lump in her breast either. Unfortunately for her, the six months she was told to wait was too long and we lost her after a valiant battle at age 29.

  12. Kim in Austin says:

    Renee! I love seeing you on the days you come in the office, I love hearing your voice, I love your laughter, your smile, and your eagerness to continue being the beautiful person you are! I love you.

  13. Becky says:

    Hi,

    I was diagnosed at age 36 I am now almost 51. You rock and I love the orange wig. Life goes on…and we live stronger because of it.

    Good luck to you!!

    B

  14. Laurie, Tommy's Mom, from Maine says:

    Renee,
    Your voice is strong and clear and so many people will hear you! Thank you for your courage and willingness to post and get the word out about young adult cancer, and, sadly, about some medical personnel still unaware. Tommy and I and our whole Maine family send you our love. We have thought about you a lot this past year and so are so happy you are doing well.
    Love, love, love the photos – Demi would be proud to be you!
    We will be in Philly this year again. See you there if you can make it to that Challenge!
    Keep Blogging!
    Livestrong.

  15. Darren Ascone says:

    Well said Renee. For a non blogger, it was excellent! LiveStrong!

  16. Jody Schoger says:

    P.S. Please blog on.

  17. Antonia says:

    Renee,

    What a wonderful entry — well done. Thank you for sharing, love you!

  18. Amy P says:

    Renee,
    You’re a pillar of strength with the will of steel and a heart of gold. Sharing your story puts a personal face on young adult cancer and will inspire fight in those who read it. Thank you for being a beacon of light!!

  19. Lori HL says:

    Renee, your writing is incredibly provocative and a true testament to your strength! Way to go! Wishing you all the best!

  20. Jeff says:

    Renee,
    You are a perfect role model for all us young adults. Your true (color)toughness have emerged. I wish you all the best. Keep on LIVINGSTRONG! Thanks for all you do.
    Jeff Sheldon

  21. Justin says:

    Very inspirational. Excellent bog. LIVESTRONG.

  22. John says:

    Perfectly written! As a young cancer survivor myself – it couldn’t have made a better point!
    And you look awesome with the new doo! I found out when I shaved my head and lost my hair that – you know you save on Airconditioning costs.

    Thank you thank you Thank YOU.

  23. lisajanae says:

    I am so glad you went for that second opinion and are now stressing its importance as doctors DO sometimes make mistakes.

    Keep living STRONG and thanks for all the work you’ve already done in your 9 years with the LAF!

  24. Sherrie says:

    Renee,

    Thank you for posting this. I can’t believe I’m reading this post on this day. I am going through the same scare as I type this. I have had a few episodes of throbing left breast for about 2 months now and something just doesn’t feel right. Went to have a mammogram yesterday. The technician told me (which is very unethical) that she found something and that I needed to be very persistant about it. The radiologist said it was most probably a hormonal cyst and pretty much ruled my mammogram as normal. I am 43 and lost an aunt less than one year ago to breast cancer. I insisted that my family doc. take this serious and I have an appointment Friday April 10 with a surgeon. I have questioned myself about being persistant and I don’t want people to think I’m a drama queen, but I just don’t like what ever it is in my breast, cyst, lump, or tissue mass, I want it out.
    Thanks again, I feel reasssured about being persistant. God Bless you and you look beautiful in all of the pictures, but especially the orange hair.
    LIVESTRONG!!

  25. Jen says:

    Renee,

    Wonderfully written. Thank you for sharing your story. Keep smiling and LIVESTRONG!

  26. Kristen says:

    Good Luck, I survived the unsurvivable, if I can o it alone anyone who is in a surrounded by friends and family can. I wish you all the luck.

    With LOVE, (cause everyone needs it)
    Kristen

  27. Renee,
    I think I last actually saw you when you were a baby in a playpen, even though we are first cousins. I was 15, in Maine. I loved your dad. I love your mom. I loved Maine. I think of all of you guys often, and I believe your blog is very powerful. The best thing you can do for yourself is to listen to your own body. If your doctor won’t listen, find another one. We all have to take control of our healthcare, no matter what age we are.
    I hope we can get together someday soon. Would love that!

  28. Saver Queen says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this important message. AND, thank you for sharing your awesome wig with us – I love the bright orange, it looks fabulous on you.

  29. Julie says:

    Hey Renee,
    Funny that story sounds so familiar to me too. I found a lump when I was 30 years old and the doctors put me off the same way. I finally pushed the point like you eventually and they discovered Hodgkins Lymphoma, that seemed like an innocent lump on the side of my breast (under pit). I am a grateful survivor now.

    Congrats on your attitude.

    Livestrong.

  30. Jerry & Angie says:

    You feel it
    You write it
    You Speak it
    You Show it for all to see
    You LiveStrong!

  31. Renee, thank you for sharing your story. We should never stop asking questions about something this important! A second opinion is a very good thing.

  32. Phil says:

    Great post. As a survivor of young cancer (Diagnosed at 24, I’m now 47) you’re an inspiration.

    Livestrong!

    Phil

  33. Linda S. says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Renee and so profoundly written. You’ve touched my heart before-last year, LIVESTRONG DAY, San Jose City Hall.
    Truly can’t wait to see you again soon. Until then, I hope you continue to share your message-it takes courage, but you’ve proven you found it in you and the message is so important!

    Thank You Renee, hugs to you, LIVESTRONG always…
    Linda Santos

  34. Jacqui says:

    Great story Renee – I?m also a young adult cancer survivor. I?m 35 now, and cancer free!! I was also 32 when I went to a doctor that told me I was being a drama queen. Like you I was busy doing my running and yoga and trying to forget about the lump in my shoulder.

    After repeated visits to my Doctor I insisted on an Xray, which revealed a massive tumor. Turns out the lump was a chondrosarcoma (cancer of the bone cartlidge)!

    Like you, I got a second opionon and now have an excellent healthcare team that I know and trust. As you say, TRUST YOUR INTUITION, and from my experience, NEVER work with a Doctor who gives you the 3rd degree or tells you that you are over reacting!

    I love the wig – All the best with your recovery and LIVESTRONG!!

  35. Kerry says:

    Renee, this is an incredibly important message. Thank you for making this post and inspiring others to take control of their situation. It really does make a difference. Wishing you the very best.

  36. Lindsay says:

    Renee,

    Love your post! So happy to see you doing well and living strong!

    Sincerely,
    Lindsay Beck (Fertile Hope)

  37. Maria says:

    Renee,

    Kyle and I had no idea – guess it’s been a while. Your message to trust your instincts and demand more from our doctors is incredibly powerful. Thanks for sharing it with the world.

    Sincerely,

    Maria Bergh

  38. Laura says:

    You are so beautiful! wow!

  39. Liz says:

    Renee,

    I’m a friend of a friend (Emily S.). I’m glad you’re doing better – great entry! I had a similar (but better!) experience with my doctor – she said it could be hormonal, but also “You can go get a mammogram now, or wait a month & see if it goes away.” So at least I had the option from the get-go! I did wind up waiting the month, but I already had the referral form from her. But listen to the message, people! Feel your girls! Get to know them! And trust yourself!

  40. Melissa Sparvero Segerlind says:

    Renee,
    I love the pictures – you have a beautiful head! Your blog was very moving and I think writing (along with wig choosing) is a wonderful talent you have been given. Thank you for sharing your story with everyone. You are truly an inspiration. I think of you everyday when I wear my race for the cure athletic shoes or my DLL breat cancer rain boots. You are constantly in my prayers. You are strong, beautiful and amazing.
    Love,
    Melissa

  41. Megan says:

    Renee,

    I am 24 and was diagnosed with breast cancer just a week and a half ago–March 31, 2009. The first doctor I went to had the look of worry you describe and she immediately ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. It was one very long week for me from the day I found the lump to the day of diagnosis. I can’t even imagine how long your month of waiting must have seemed. I envy you that the lump is gone. My oncologist has opted to begin chemo first, and surgery will come later. So for now, the lump remains…getting smaller all the time, but not gone yet.

    -Megan

  42. Renee, you did an awesome job with your first blog post. And – you did an awesome job in listening to your body and following through with a second opinion. Thanks for sharing your story with the world.

    You’re beautiful!! :)

  43. Andy White says:

    Hi Renee:
    Our buddy Rita Radostitz posted your blog on her Facebook page and it came to me that way. Wow! Love your smiles in those photos, you go! Hope things are going well – All the best, Andy

  44. Philippe Chantreau says:

    The inspirational stories, like Renee’s, on this site are an endless source of joy. You are just hot, girl.

  45. Adam Butler says:

    Renee,

    I love what you say about listening to your intuition. You knew it. This is an important message to share. My father ignored his intuition and is now in a battle royal with the cancer. Thank for sharing as this is a message for the young and the older.

    By the way, you are equally gorgeous with all three of the haircuts above. Partial to the mohawk.

    Adam

  46. Wow Renee! Amazing! I didn’t know the woman who called me
    last week is a cancer survivor and a beautiful human being who has dedicated her life to helping others.

    Thank you for sharing yourself in your blog.

    Kind regards,

    Charlie in Santa Monica

  47. ivan says:

    Same exact situation happened to my wife, she was 30. Thank God for the second Dr. although it was 3 months later and bye her own intuition and persistence. That was just the beginning of a long, bumpy road but it has made us realize what is really important and that a lot of the things we really cared about were trivial at best. It is tough to say because of the seriousness of the illness but cancer has made me a better person.

    God Bless

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