It’s likely that Brooke Taylor had breast cancer even before she was pregnant with her daughter, Elsie. But in a strange turn of events, Brooke managed to give birth to a baby and be diagnosed with breast cancer on the same day.
It was during a routine wellness exam that Brooke’s doctor felt a small lump. However, he thought it was nothing to worry about, and so Brooke dropped the subject.
“My doctor felt something before I was even pregnant with Elsie, and I know that because it was in my medical records that he felt something, but he thought it was no big deal because I was too young for it to be breast cancer,” Brooke says. “There’s no such thing as too young.”
As her pregnancy progressed, however, Brooke began to be more and more concerned about what her doctor had found in her breast. When she was 38 weeks pregnant, she finally demanded that the doctor check on the lump again.
“What is really scary is, had I not stood up for myself, had I not taken off my shirt in that appointment and said, ‘I’m not leaving until you feel this,’ I don’t know if I’d be sitting here today,” she says.
Brooke’s instinct was correct, and on the day of her daughter’s birth, she got the disastrous results of her testing: she had breast cancer, fueled by the BRCA1 gene mutation.
“I remember holding her and just thinking, ‘Will I be here on her first birthday?’ Like that’s it. I didn’t know. I didn’t know what kind of cancer I had. I didn’t know if it had spread. I didn’t know anything. All I could think about was her first birthday,” Brooke recalls.
Later, she would find out that it was triple-negative breast cancer, a very aggressive type of cancer that can be difficult to treat.
Brooke has now been through chemotherapy and radiation treatment, as well as seven surgeries, including surgeries to remove and reconstruct both of her breasts and to remove her ovaries. She’s been through hot flashes, staph infections, shingles, mouth sores, hair loss, insomnia, neuropathy, and a whole host of other ailments. She even dealt with another cancer diagnosis—a small spot of basal-cell carcinoma that should be able to be easily treated.
But even with all of that going on, she made it to her daughter’s first birthday. And then she made it past that. Now she’s cancer-free and appreciating all the little moments in life.
“When the doctor called, he said, ‘Kiddo, pathology was all clear.’ That is only time I’ve seen my husband cry,’” Brooke says.
We wouldn’t wish what Brooke has gone through on anyone, but we’ve got to admit, cancer does a great job of forcing people to appreciate the little things, like a child’s first birthday.
“This is what I prayed for. This is an answered prayer to have hard days,” Brooke says. “Yeah. This is the good stuff.”
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?
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