Hi, I’m Brittney Beadle and I’m 19 years old. I was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer when I was 18. In February of 2015 I felt a tiny lump in my right breast. Of course I thought it was nothing, but I still got it checked out anyway. After an ultra sound and a mammogram, the breast specialist assured me that it was nothing to worry about because “18 year olds don’t get breast cancer” so she sent me home. About two and a half months later I noticed the lump kept growing, it was huge and it made my nipple invert. I knew something was wrong so my mom made another appointment to get the lump checked out. I had the same breast specialist as first time. She did another ultra sound which showed three new lumps had grown. This time she decided to do a biopsy. The very next day I got a call to come in. The doctor sat me down and said those three little words “you have cancer” A month later after a PET scan I learned the cancer had metastasized to my bones, liver, and lymph nodes.
Since I was so young when I was diagnosed, the majority of the doctors I met with were completely shocked that I had breast cancer. I live in a small town so none of the doctors in my area have ever seen someone so young with breast cancer. My oncologist sent me to a few out of state doctors, who are more experienced with young cancer patients, to talk about treatment plans. I remember one of the out of state doctors was basically preparing me for death. I asked him anyway about fertility and freezing my eggs so I can one day have children and he looked at me and said “well, who will take care of your children when you’re gone” That’s an experience I will never forget. That’s when I realized you need to choose your doctors carefully. Not every doctor is a good match for you.
My family was an absolute wreck when I was first diagnosed. It was such a huge shock to everyone and they were just as scared as I was. It took them awhile to adjust to the fact that I had cancer, but they were the best support system anyone could have. When I started losing my hair, my mom shaved her head with me and she came to every chemo treatment. I am blessed to have such supportive people around to remind me I’m not going through this alone.
Before I was diagnosed I was perfectly healthy. I had a very healthy diet and I exercised almost every day. I didn’t think cancer could happen to me, but it did. I urge everyone to make time to see your doctor. If you feel something is off about your body, get it checked out. Your health is the most important thing. Being young doesn’t exempt you from cancer. Anyone at any age can get it.
The first doctor I saw didn’t take me seriously because of my age and sent me away. I wish I knew then what I know now. Be your own advocate. Speak up for yourself. If I had listened to what the doctor said when she said it was nothing, I wouldn’t be here right now.
When I found out I had cancer everything changed. I realized how beautiful life is and I started having gratitude for everyday that I woke up. I decided to fight for my life because I wanted to live. I wanted to experience life. I was told I had metastatic breast cancer a week before I graduated high school. My life was just beginning and then I got told it might end. I want to travel the world, fall in love, get married, and have a child one day. I won’t let this disease take that away from me.
It’s so important that we start talking to young women about their health. Being young doesn’t necessarily make you healthy. I know breast cancer can be an uncomfortable topic to talk to young girls about but it’s important that we do. No girl is ever too young to start doing a self-breast exam. Young women should be aware of their risk of getting this disease.
*Photo by Jeff Dietz Photography