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            I’m Raelee.  I was living a normal life and working a full-time job. I had so many goals and dreams when it all came to a halt to focus on my health.  At age 26 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

            About a month before my diagnosis, I noticed a huge mass in my breast. I was experiencing sharp pains where it was.  Sometimes the pain was so bad I couldn’t even breathe. I didn’t think anything of it until one day I was working out and took off my sports bra and felt a huge lump. I thought I had just pulled a muscle until my mom told me to go see my doctor and get it checked.

Everyone thought it was just a fibroid mass, especially because of my age and because my family does not have a history of breast cancer. After having an ultrasound and biopsy I was diagnosed as having breast cancer.  I will never forget at 7:30 a.m. on March 8th receiving that phone call from my doctor’s office letting me know that I have breast cancer and being told how aggressive it is.

After I got off the phone I immediately called my best friend in tears.  I really didn’t know how to break the news to my mom, family and friends.  I then called my Aunt, then a cousin, and then finally my mom. I told her I had to tell her something and she needed to come home from work.  My twin brother and I are the only children my mom has and it broke me into pieces telling her my devastating news.

            We both sat together and cried, hugging each other, wondering why this happened.  We had so many questions to ask. We had no idea where to even begin with something like this. We laughed and jokingly blamed it all on my twin brother for taking all the good nutrients when we were growing inside my mom, since he has always been healthy.  I’ve seen t-shirts, mugs and all kinds of other things about breast cancer in the stores, but I never thought it would be me fighting this battle.

            I am the first person in my family who has been diagnosed with breast cancer. We later learned that breast cancer is the same gene as ovarian and brain cancer, both of which has occurred in my family.  My sister-in-law created a GO FUND ME account and that’s really how the news broke to many other people.  I was too over-whelmed and heartbroken to talk about it at the time.

            Thankfully I have great doctors and surgeons who fit me in immediately, one appointment after the other.  I had a mammogram and biopsy done by my surgeon on the other breast the day after I was diagnosed.  Thankfully the mass in the other breast was just a fibroid.  Right after I saw the surgeon a patient cancelled at my oncologist’s office and I was able to be seen that same day.

            I was then diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, but later on it was determined by the new fish test that I am borderline Her2 positive and triple negative.  With that being said I was treated as an Her2 patient with six rounds of chemo.

            Once I had finished the initial chemo treatment and I had a bilateral mastectomy reconstruction, the tumor only shrank by ½ cm.  My doctors were not satisfied with that result, and recommended additional chemo.  The new chemo is a lot harder with two weeks on then one week off.  I will also still take the Her2 targeting drugs for a year. I am the first patient to take this new cancer drug. I am scared, but that comes natural going through this battle.  I’m in it to win it.

            A week after I was diagnosed I went in for my very first surgery ever.  I had to have my port put in and a Lymphadenectomy.  After having several doctors’ appointments, I started chemo treatments less than a month after being diagnosed.  Because the cancer is so aggressive they wanted to do chemo first.  I was terrified being the youngest in the room, sitting in a chemo chair with so many others fighting all different types of cancer at all different stages.  It was a huge eye opener and life changing seeing so many people battling their own fight against cancer.

            I will never forget the very last thing my oncologist talked to me about - losing my hair.  I was devastated.  I have always been proud of my hair.  I have always had long hair and it took all of my strength to cut it into a short bob before I started chemo.  At this time my hair was already starting to fall out.  My mom told me that I should take control of my life and that the cancer doesn’t have control of me by taking my hair from me. It would be even more devastating waking up and finding hair on my pillow, so I made sure that wouldn’t happen.  A week after I started chemo Shena with One Life’s Journey cut my hair into a short pixie.

            One Life’s Journey made the next step in my life’s journey so much easier.  The moment I walked into the salon and Shena looked down the stairs, I immediately started getting teary-eyed.  We all went upstairs and on Shena’s station was a basket with balloons filled with a whole bunch of goodies along with my new wig. After we cut my hair, my best friend Lauren had me shave half of her head so I wouldn’t be alone in this battle. This made the day I cut my hair into a short pixie so much easier. A few days later my best friend surprised me and flew me to South Padre Island to shave off the rest of my hair and let it blow away in the wind. She made something so devastating be so beautiful and peaceful. A memory that I will remember for the rest of my life.

            As time went on going through chemo became really hard.  Each time I had to go back for several IV fluids, there was a few times my temperature was so high and after being in the bed for a few days, my mom called my brother and his friend to come over for help because she was terrified. I had to go to the emergency room a few times. Throughout this whole journey my goal has been to never look sick, because that’s just not who I am.

            I’ve met many people along my journey and being able to help someone else fight cancer means the world to me. This entire journey has been a huge eye opener.  Positivity is the key and I’ve learned to surround myself with positive people and live each day to the fullest.

            I can’t thank everyone enough for all their support throughout my journey. You all are what has helped me get through this dark time in my life. I am so thankful that my mom has been by my side since day one.  She initially told me to get my lump checked out so we caught my cancer in the early stage. We did not wait.

One of my goals now is to help bring awareness to young adults. My message to everyone is:

It doesn’t matter what age you are, if you feel anything abnormal anywhere in your body, don’t wait, get it checked. If you are at the age where you are supposed to get your mammograms done annually, please do.


Raelee Shaw

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