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Patient Journeys for Young Women with Breast Cancer

  • Young women with breast cancer have many life experiences in common, yet each woman has her own story and unique challenges such as fertility concerns, parenting young children, managing careers, and sustaining relationships. Just as no two cancers are alike, no two journeys are alike. Whatever the journey involves, the care team at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers can offer expertise and support.

    The following young women share their experiences and offer insights into what they've learned and what has guided them along the way.

    Alexis' Breast Cancer Journey: A Video Series

    Patient Alexis

    "Your life is not over. It's not over. There will be great times and there will be challenging times."

    In 2017, at the age of 33, Alexis found a lump in her breast while on a business trip. She mentioned it to her mother, who urged her to get it checked out when she returned home. Alexis thought it might be an early-stage breast cancer. When she was referred to Dana-Farber and found out that it was stage 4, "it was completely shocking and obviously devastating."

    As someone who had always exercised and practiced a healthy lifestyle, Alexis vowed that after chemotherapy, she was going to get even stronger than before she got sick.

    In this video series, learn about Alexis' decision to take up weight lifting, how she gets through the emotional ups and downs, and how things are going now that she is more than a year out from her initial diagnosis.


    Maggie: Concerned about Fertility

    Patient Maggie

    "You're 28-years old and you want to do everything you can to ensure this doesn't come back, but at the same time you want to preserve your fertility as much as possible."

    Maggie was faced with a number of hard choices when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 28. Some of the biggest decisions centered around her ability to have children later in life, and whether treatment would affect her future fertility.

    Read about the treatment plan she and her oncologist developed to preserve fertility while effectively treating Maggie's breast cancer.

    Listen to a podcast with Maggie speaking to her oncologist, Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, co-founder/director of the Young and Strong program, as they discuss some of the important decisions young breast cancer patients face.


    Amanda and Judy: Mastectomy, or Not — Breast Cancer Surgery Decisions

    Amanda and Judy

    "It's important to weigh all the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches."

    Although they were both diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, Amanda and Judy chose two different surgical treatments.

    Listen to a podcast in which they discuss their surgery options and decisions along with Tari King, MD, chief of breast surgery at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center.

    Read their story and learn what researchers say about deciding whether or not to have a mastectomy after a breast cancer diagnosis.

    Meghan: Breast Cancer During Pregnancy

    "My first thoughts were: Will this baby live? Will I Live? Who is going to read bedtime stories?"

    While visiting her obstetrician in May 2012, 30-year-old Meghan Martin received life-changing news. The mother of two, who was seven-months pregnant with her third boy, learned she had breast cancer.

    Watch a video of Meghan Martin telling her story at the Susan F. Smith Center for Women's Cancers Executive Council Breakfast.

  • Erin: Reassurance after a Breast Cancer Diagnosis

    "All I kept thinking about were my children, and what was going to happen."

    Erin was diagnosed in 2014 with triple-negative breast cancer at the age of 36. She also tested positive for a mutation of the BRCA gene. As a mother of two young boys, she was very worried about what would happen, but a conversation with her clinician, Ann Partridge, MD, MPH, director of at the Young and Strong Program, proved to be deeply reassuring. Today, she is cancer-free and continues to do well.

    Learn more about triple-negative breast cancer.

  • Colleen and Gabby: Balancing Motherhood and Breast Cancer

    Colleen Sullivan

    "That was the first time I realized that life doesn't stop because of a cancer diagnosis."

    It was a warm day in November 2013 when Gabby Spear found out she had breast cancer. But even in the midst of the difficult news, her responsibilities as a mom, wife, professional, and community member remained. Like Spear, fellow breast cancer patient Colleen Sullivan also had to balance cancer treatment with her roles at home and at work.

    Listen to a podcast of Gabby and Colleen discussing the ups and downs of balancing motherhood and breast cancer, how they communicated about their diagnosis, and how their roles changed throughout the course of treatment.

    Read about how Gabby told her young children she had cancer.

    Learn more about Colleen's care team throughout her cancer journey.

  • About Our Patient Stories

    Dana-Farber shares patient stories which may include descriptions of actual medical results. Dana-Farber provides personalized care for each patient based on their unique needs; their experiences and results will vary.

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  • Young and Strong Breast Cancer Forum

    Join us for Breast Cancer in Younger Women: A Forum for Patients and Survivors sponsored by the Young and Strong Program. The event is open to younger women with breast cancer (diagnosed at age 45 or younger), survivors, and loved ones. Information about the 2020 forum coming soon!

    View the 2018 forum highlights