LEXINGTON, Ky. (FOX 56) — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and for most women, mammogram screening doesn’t start until after the age of 40.
“I guess you never suspect that you’re going to get diagnosed with cancer until you do. So, you’re not prepared for it,” said breast cancer patient 34-year-old Jessica Hill.
Hill was diagnosed with one of the most aggressive breast cancers, triple-negative breast cancer.
“So, about a week after Thanksgiving, I started having extreme pain in my left lymph nodes. So, while I was massaging my underarm one day, I noticed I also had a lump in my left breast. So, I was like, That’s no good. So, I went to a family medicine office to get it checked out, and there, they didn’t really seem to take it that seriously. They said my lymph nodes were probably an ingrown hair or that I was fighting an infection and that my lump could be moved, which wasn’t characteristic of a cancerous tumor. However, thankfully, they did decide to go ahead and schedule me for a mammogram just to play it safe,” Hill said.
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But for Hill, the next available appointment wasn’t until six weeks after her visit, and she said that playing it safe is the reason she’s still here.
“I mean, I was 33, I had no family history whatsoever, and I had a six-month-old. So, I was like, No, I could be making memories with our new family, but instead know now you’re going to be battling cancer. So sure enough, my biopsy results came back two days later, and I got diagnosed with a triple-negative breast cancer, and the lymph nodes that were hurting me also tested positive for cancer. So here I am. I did six months of chemo, I had a lumpectomy, and I’m on my fifth week of radiation, but I’m still here. So, it’s been a journey,” Hill said.
Hill says that she’s thankful for the village of people she could turn to for support and for the UK’s Markey Cancer Center where she’s getting treatment.
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“When I was first diagnosed, I was in a very dark place, and my family came over constantly to check in on me and play games to make sure that I was my mind was off of it. My husband and my sister spent the night, and we just watched stupid movies. I think the goofy movie is great, but they were not fans because it was the only time I could really sleep was with movies and being surrounded by people because I couldn’t be left alone to your own mind,” said Hill. “My husband has attended almost every single doctor’s appointment with me, and he does all the research, and he reminds me to take my meds lovingly or to put lotion on after radiation. He’s really been like a stable rock throughout all of this, and I guess you don’t really realize until you’re in the depths of your own cancer treatment how much just a small act of kindness can really mean to you.”
Even in the darkest days, Hill said there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.
“Somedays you’re going to be sad and everything’s going to suck, and then some days you’re going to feel joy again, just to try to take it one day at a time. There is a light; I see it now; it is blinding me, and I’m very, very excited to be done, but in the past, it was just all darkness so as to not see the end of the road. So, I’m very happy that I’m close and that it’s here, and it does come,” Hill said.
Even with all the treatments, Hill’s journey is still not over. She will finish radiation on Friday but will continue immunotherapy until the spring.
She encourages women in similar situations to advocate more for themselves early in the process.
“Cancer does not have an age limit. I really wish that I would have advocated for myself more in the beginning. I felt like, really, no one took my issues seriously or really any sense of urgency. A triple-negative breast cancer is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer, and I sat there and waited six weeks to be seen with a mass and pain in my lymph nodes. I wish I really would have called around to different hospitals to check their wait times or called in the mornings to see if there were any cancellations. I mean, really, you know your body the best, and you really need to advocate for yourself and your health because I guess you really know your body the best, and you really should advocate for yourself and your health when it’s telling you that something is wrong,” Hill said.