With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with our Associate, Caroline, who truly inspires us and shared her personal fight against breast cancer. Being diagnosed at a young age, her story demonstrates that breast cancer doesn’t discriminate and the importance of understanding your options for prevention and treatment.
Caroline is our Project Specialist, Talent Management and focuses on our ANN INC. Learning initiatives for the Field and Home Office. Read on to hear about Caroline’s strong determination throughout her journey.
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey?
It was almost exactly one year ago when I was in the shower and my hand brushed against my breast and I felt a lump. I knew in that moment that the lump wasn’t supposed to be there. My husband encouraged me to get it checked out right away, and the next morning I went to a doctor, which then led to a mammogram, an ultrasound, and a biopsy. I received my biopsy results in November, and the lump ended up being Ductal Carcinoma. I was absolutely stunned when I heard the news – I had just had my annual exam a month before I found the lump, and I had always thought breast cancer was something for women much older. Because of my young age and no family history of breast cancer, my doctors and I decided on a more aggressive treatment plan – five months of chemotherapy followed by surgery.
While side effects of chemo aren’t pretty, I learned that being a young woman with breast cancer presents a bigger challenge – fertility. Because my cancer was receptive to hormones, I was told that getting pregnant would be the worst thing for my health. This news was absolutely devastating to us – my husband and I were ready to start a family. I quickly learned that my health was the priority, and we’re confident that we will one day be able to have the family that we dream about.
I was determined to not let cancer get in the way of living my life. I continued to work, travel, and exercise. I picked up a new hobby, skeet shooting, and joined my husband’s company’s softball team. My life theme became “Dominate” – I looked at cancer as just another item on my to-do list that I was going to soon cross off. This past year also taught me a lot about who I am as a person, strengthened my relationships with my family and friends, and reminded me despite having cancer, I still had so much to be thankful for.
What have you learned from your journey that you want to share with other women?
I’ve learned that breast cancer doesn’t discriminate – it doesn’t care if you are an otherwise healthy and active young woman. I am so thankful that I caught my cancer early – if you do feel something suspicious, I urge you to have it checked out immediately. I know we all have busy lives, and often, as women, we tend to put the needs of others in front of ours. But our health is something that we can control, and it’s important to make it a priority!
Any advice for women already in the fight?
Probably the biggest thing that helped me was celebrating every milestone along the way, no matter how small. My friends and family didn’t hesitate when I wanted to celebrate being in the double digits of chemo or reaching the halfway mark of chemo sessions. I’m all about celebrating every moment!
As a company, ANN INC. and its clients are very supportive in the fight against breast cancer. As a matter of fact, you joined us this year at the annual luncheon for The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. Tell us about that experience.
It was a huge honor to attend the @TheBreastCancerResearchFoundation luncheon. I had the privilege of sitting next to one of our ANN INC. sponsored researchers, and being able to meet her and learn about the latest research she and the other researchers are doing was truly inspiring. I’m so proud to be a part of a company that truly cares about finding a cure for breast cancer.
So what’s next? How are you today?
I’m doing great! While I’m cancer-free, my journey isn’t quite over. I’ll be going back to the hospital every three weeks for the next year for an infusion and I start every morning with a pill that will hopefully help keep the cancer from returning. Not a day goes by when I don’t think about what I went through the past year. I’m extremely grateful for my ANN INC. team for being such an amazing source of strength and encouragement.