When You're the Youngest Breast Cancer Patient Your Doctor's Ever Seen
When You're the Youngest Breast Cancer Patient Your Doctor's Ever Seen
October 13, 2023
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:
I strongly believe that age is just a number.
There was a point in my cancer journey when I bargained with God. I asked him why he allowed me to get diagnosed in my twenties and wished he could have changed the timing to at least my forties or fifties.
I hated the fact that I got diagnosed in my twenties, and I had a hard time letting it go.
I hated being the youngest one receiving chemotherapy in the Infusion Suite.
I hated when all the older cancer patients in the Infusion Suite would shamelessly stare at me.
I hated when one doctor bluntly told me, “You are the youngest breast cancer patient I encountered during my thirty years of practice.” I sarcastically sassed him and joked, “Oh great. So does that mean you’ll give me special treatment?” He was incapable of quick-wit and banter since God only gifted him with book smarts, so he stayed silent.
I gave him the Gellars’ version of the middle finger in my head and concluded that he had shitty bedside manner. #Sorrynotsorry
I hated interacting with my friends. I remember my first few outings with my friends post-treatment and pre-covid19. Everyone was complaining about the trashy dating scene in NYC, zits, break ups, and incompetent bosses. I bargained again with God and wished their problems were my problems.
I’ve always been the youngest in most aspects of my life, and I never liked it for a vast majority of reasons. Getting diagnosed in my late twenties felt like the cherry on top.
I am the youngest in my family. In Korean culture, it is proper etiquette to pay your elders with respect at all times such as speaking more formally, obeying commands, and even pouring/receiving soju in a specific way.
I was one of the youngest in my Master’s program.
I am the youngest on the management team at work.
I was the youngest breast cancer patient the doctor had encountered during his thirty years of practice.
As time went on, I stopped bargaining with God and started to accept my reality. I finally accepted the fact that there was absolutely nothing I could do to erase my history and started looking on the bright side.
Being the youngest in my family means that I get all the doting and love, and I’m honestly here for it.
Being one of the youngest in grad school shows that my hard work got me there, not my age.
Being younger than my colleagues at work has nothing to do with my skills, competence, and leadership. I’ve had bosses who were much older than me throughout my profession, and some flat out sucked.
I am now at a point in my survivorship where all my pre-cancer problems are no longer my problems, where all my pre-cancer fears are no longer my fears, and where my pre-cancer aversions are no longer my aversions.
I don’t complain much anymore since it feels like my only real problem is cancer. I don’t fear much anymore since my only real fear is recurrence. I don’t hate much anymore since I choose to focus on the beautiful blessings in my life.
Life has become much more intentional and efficient, and I enjoy looking at life through a more refined lens. The lessons I learned from cancer are lessons I probably would have learned throughout my life anyway, but I’m sure much later on. Cancer just expedited everything.
Side note: don’t get me wrong. I love being youthful. I still laugh out loud when someone farts. I live for memes on Instagram. I love watching Disney movies. I prank my boyfriend on the daily. I invest in clean anti-aging skincare products. You get the picture.
But, my point is this: I am now proud of my age and everything I’ve been able to accomplish inside and outside of cancer.
Again, age is just a number.
If you are like me and sometimes hate the fact that you got diagnosed at a young age and feel like none of your friends understand you, I want you to know that your feelings are completely valid. I do want to encourage you, though, to look at your situation from a different angle and realize this:
You are special because you will learn lessons and gain a certain level of understanding of life that most people in this world may not have the opportunity to experience. The lessons you learn and choose to practice will set you apart, in a good way.
Do you also agree that age is just a number? How old were you when you were diagnosed?
To learn more about Michelle, be sure to follow her on TikTok and Instagram!
** This blog has been republished from Michelle's original post, which you can find here.
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List the names of all the doctors, hospitals, and other facilities your loved one visits regularly, along with those they have visited in the past. Try to go back as far as you can, striving for at least the last 5-10 years, but do your best. Even if you can’t remember them all, having a strong baseline can help you quickly identify gaps in records.
Ensure You Have the Appropriate Legal Status
It is important to make sure that you are fully empowered to make decisions on behalf of your loved one with Alzheimer’s. Your relationship status with the patient may not be enough to legally give you access to your loved one's medical information. It is a good idea to talk to an expert about securing special legal status, such as Power of Attorney (POA), a legal document that allows an individual to name someone as their decision maker should they no longer be able to make decisions on their own.
Gather and Organize the Medical Records in One Place
It’s important to have all of your loved one’s medical records together in one spot. This makes it much easier for you and your loved one’s physicians to accurately map the patient’s medical journey and more easily share information between doctors. Fortunately, tools exist to make record management and access simple. A free resource like PicnicHealth helps you collect and organize all of this information. PicnicHealth’s intuitive timeline allows you to pinpoint data across the medical history, eliminating your need for keeping heavy binders filled with paper records or keeping track of multiple software portal logins.
Review the Medical Records to be an Informed Advocate
The better you understand your loved one's medical history, the better you can advocate on their behalf. Access and understanding of this information will help you to ask informed questions with physicians. Through regular communication backed by the data in the medical records, you can help your loved one’s care team develop a more successful care plan.
Learn more about PicnicHealth’s commitment to the Alzheimer’s community and the Alzheimer’s Association
When you’re juggling appointment times and insurance claims, putting a robust support system together might not strike you as the most urgent task. Investing the time to cultivate relationships with people can turn to in times of need will pay dividends. The next time you need a last-minute ride or just someone to listen, you won’t be on your own. There are many condition-specific support groups and support groups for caregivers generally in person or online. In addition to the encouragement and empathy they provide, support groups can be a helpful source of tips, resources, and recommendations for navigating caregiving.
The backbone of effective caregiving is organization. Keep medical information, appointment schedules, and medication lists in order. Use a planner or a digital service like PicnicHealth to stay on top of your responsibilities. This attention to detail can prevent future complications and reduce day-to-day stress.
Explore treatments and clinical trials.
We’ve seen incredible breakthroughs in treatment over the past couple of years, powered by patients and their caregivers participating in research. Stay in the loop about the latest in medical advancements and available resources that could benefit your loved one. Whether it’s a new therapy option or a community service that aids independence, being informed can make a world of difference in the quality of care you provide.
Make time for self-care.
It may seem self-centered to focus on self-care—but when you feel good, you can be a better caregiver. Whether it’s exercise, a mindfulness practice, a soak in the bath, or just time to rest when you need it, carve out those moments in the day when you can unwind, reset, and stay healthy mentally and physically. Think of it as building up your reserves of kindness, patience, and understanding—which can only benefit your loved one. No one can pour from an empty cup.
Having trouble managing your loved one's medical records?
Easily manage all of your loved one's medical records and contribute to ongoing Alzheimer's research with PicnicHealth.
Tip: Download or print the poster at the end of this article to review before your next appointment!
However, it's important to consult with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian to determine the appropriate amount of protein for your individual needs. In general, a diet with moderate protein intake (about 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight per day) is recommended for people with kidney diseases.
Learn more about contributing to IgAN research with PicnicHealth.