Eleven years after receiving a breast cancer diagnosis, Katy Wagnon has a lot to be grateful for: a full recovery, supportive family, and a beautiful daughter with another on the way. Now, she’s sharing her story with other breast cancer survivors, hoping to inspire them and help them through the process.
As a former FemmePharma employee, Katy was happy to chat with us about being a young survivor, pregnancy after diagnosis, and her perspective a decade later.
Breast Cancer Testing and Diagnosis
In 2009, Katy noticed a lump during a breast self-exam in the shower, which she reported to her doctor—whom she’s thankful took it seriously, despite her young age.
“I was lucky that I had a doctor that didn’t ignore the fact that I was 25, and who sent me to get an ultrasound, a mammogram, biopsy—everything,” she said.
Thankfully, the results came back as DCIS—or basically stage zero breast cancer. She consulted with a breast surgeon–who suggested a lumpectomy—and then with an oncologist, who recommended eight rounds of chemotherapy.
Katy completed four rounds of chemotherapy and then, after not receiving clear advice on whether to undergo a mastectomy, sought the opinion of another doctor.
“My doctor, my breast surgeon, was saying, ‘Well, you know, it’s really up to you. We can’t really tell you exactly what to do.’ But I was 25 years old; I had no idea what was going on. I needed someone to say, ‘This is what we suggest you do.’”
On the advice of her grandmother–also a breast cancer survivor—Katy sought treatment at the University of Arizona, and eventually decided to undergo a double mastectomy. In the middle of all of this—plus additional surgeries—she lost her job in Arizona and ended up moving to Pennsylvania.
10 years later, she’s in full remission and can finally look back at all of it and reflect on her experience.
Advice for Other Young Survivors
For others going through breast cancer treatment, Katy emphasizes the importance of maintaining a positive attitude and eating healthy.
“99% of it is going to be your attitude. I know someone who had a bad attitude about it, and had a very hard time with the whole thing. So I definitely think your attitude is a huge factor, and a huge factor of your outcome. I’m also a big believer in the food that we put in our body affects our health and wellbeing.”
She also wants young breast cancer survivors to know that they have the option to freeze their eggs to protect them from the chemotherapy radiation and ensure healthy pregnancies—an option she wasn’t made aware of at the time.
“When I started my chemotherapy, unfortunately, no one mentioned the option of freezing my eggs. I wish they had because it did take us five or six years to get pregnant with Lulu (after fully completing treatment). It was a little disheartening.”
Luckily, Katy was able to have one healthy daughter (and another on the way) without having to freeze her eggs. Still, she would have appreciated the option.
“I would have done it if I’d known more about it. Or I would’ve asked more questions about it when I first started my treatments,” she said.
Now on her second pregnancy, Katy has been feeling well. She makes sure to stay active, eat well, and monitor her hormone levels for any effects they might have.
Overall, Katy has had success with her breast cancer journey. Apart from the chemo hair loss and nausea, she’s had minimal side effects. Her cancer is in remission, and she’s been able to have children.
Though she knows everyone won’t have the same experience as she did, she encourages them to stay positive.
“If you happen to get this diagnosis, there’s no reason to lose hope. It can turn out good,” she said. “Just take the process one day at a time.”
FemmePharma is proudly sharing survivors’ journeys during Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Check out their stories here.
Photo Courtesy – Katy Wagnon