With this article, Kathryn Petrides begins writing an occasional series for The Post that will focus on what she calls "balancing life as a 'normal' 26-year-old and a cancer patient."
It was on the weekend of my 25th birthday that my boyfriend alerted me to a lump in my left breast. At first dismissive of his concern, I eventually promised to see my gynecologist. I was due for my annual exam anyway.
About three weeks later, I walked away from the doctor visit confident and reassured. My gynecologist conducted a breast exam, made note of the lump's size and sent me on my way. She didn't order a mammogram or an ultrasound or suggest a follow-up appointment.
"She said considering my age and family history, it's probably just a cyst or a fibro-something and to keep an eye on it," I reported back to my boyfriend.
So, I continued with my normal life in Washington, where I've lived since 2005.
Fast-forward to July 2012, more than six months after the discovery of the lump. I had been accepted into a program to teach English in Leon, Spain. I gave notice to my employer here, completed the paperwork for my visa and booked my plane ticket. Dreaming about tapas and siestas, I'd forgotten about the mass in my breast. My boyfriend hadn't, and he urged me to follow up on it.
Deep down, something told me he was right. You can probably guess what happened next.
I have cancer, an aggressive kind that has already spread to my lymph nodes. In official "cancer talk," I have grade three invasive ductal carcinoma that is estrogen-, progesterone- and HER2Neu-positive. I chose to participate in a clinical trial that entailed neoadjuvant chemotherapy — a fancy way of saying chemotherapy before surgery — so I will never have an official staging because they cannot know with certainty how many of my lymph nodes contained cancer cells.