My name is Bailey McLeod, and I am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer called Triple Negative during my senior year of college at 21-years-old. Although I have no family history of breast cancer, when I felt it, I knew. It was a very tiny lump, only 7mm in diameter, but I knew in my gut that it didn’t belong in my body. I didn’t have an OBGYN at the time, so I spent the next day desperately trying to find a physician who would see me and investigate it further. I was turned down by 5 offices before someone agreed to see me for my symptom. A doctor’s visit turned into an ultrasound, which turned into a mammogram, and finally turned into a biopsy. On February 12, 2016, one week after finding my lump, I was diagnosed. Naturally, my entire family was in shock. I asked to be referred to UT Southwestern in Dallas, and from there we got the ball rolling.
First things first, we wanted to get genetic testing done to find out if I had a genetic mutation that made me more likely to develop breast cancer, such as with the BRCA gene. As it turns out, I was negative for any mutations, which was a bittersweet discovery because although I really wanted an answer as to why I got breast cancer so young, if I had been positive that meant I could pass it on to my children. It would also make me more likely to develop ovarian cancer, which would ultimately lead to a full hysterectomy. A couple of weeks later, it was time for surgery. I decided to undergo a prophylactic double mastectomy with reconstruction. Two weeks after that, I started the egg preservation process. Although I found my cancer in it’s early stages, it was very aggressive, and therefore I was advised to do eight rounds of bi-weekly chemotherapy. Chemo is known to damage your reproductive system, and my being in child-bearing years, it was pertinent that I have a backup plan for my desire to one day be a mother. The entire process took about two weeks and we retrieved 36 eggs, 21 of which were mature enough to freeze and store. A few days later, I started chemotherapy.
I want to mention, throughout all this I was still attending my classes as much as I could. I was grateful to have professors and a wonderful advisor who worked with me to ensure I was able to graduate that May, which I’m proud to say I did. On July 21, 2016 I completed my eighth round of chemo AND got engaged to my boyfriend at the time. We had been dating for two years when I was diagnosed, and he was my rock throughout the whole thing. A few weeks later, I had my final reconstruction surgery. I was done! Or so I thought…
After finishing treatment, I thought I would be able to close that chapter and move on. Unfortunately, that’s not the case when you go through something as traumatic as cancer. Throughout my entire experience, I felt very isolated. Although I had an amazing support team, I didn’t personally know anyone my age who had been through what I had been through. I felt like I had so many emotions bottled up inside me that I desperately wanted to share with someone who truly understood. Through Cancer Care Services, I learned of two organizations that changed my life: The Young Survival Coalition and The Fort Worth Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Coalition. YSC has been an amazing outlet for me to connect with other young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer under the age of 40. FWAYA has allowed me to meet different groups of young people diagnosed with ANY type of cancer. If it weren’t for Cancer Care Services I would have never been introduced to these two amazing establishments. Meeting so many people who I can relate to has truly helped me to digress from my negative feelings towards cancer and has helped me to move on and live a happier life.