My Daughters Helped Save Me by Mia Purdy

My kids like to say they saved my life. And, honestly, they likely did.

I was lying in bed one morning in the Summer of 2020. Pandemic, lock downs, too much screen time… my two daughters, then six and four, ran into my room to wake me up. They started jumping on the bed and I immediately grabbed my breasts to protect myself from the little monkeys.

That’s when I felt it. A big, gumball-sized lump in my left breast. My mind was blown - what is that?!

My husband encouraged me to go to the emergency room to get seen as quickly as possible. The ER doctor confirmed something was there, but said it was likely a blocked milk duct - even though I hadn’t breastfed in three years (apparently that can happen even years later).

He decided to send me for a mammogram and ultrasound anyway. Thank goodness for that. I think about that doctor sometimes. How easily he could have told me not to worry, go home, it’s likely nothing. I was, after all, ‘too young’ for breast cancer.

But he sent me for tests - a biopsy followed the mammogram and ultrasound. And two weeks later, I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Two days after my 36th birthday.

It’s hard to forget that day. The numb feeling. The heavy breathing into a mask. The feeling, so alone because no one could come to the appointment with me thanks to COVID. The shock and disbelief. The trying to listen and retain the information the doctor was giving me. The tears.

Then things went quickly. My treatment plan was surgery first, followed by chemotherapy and radiation, if needed. I was suddenly thrust into a world of breast surgery and had two weeks to decide what surgery I wanted.

A lumpectomy, a mastectomy, a double mastectomy, reconstruction…??

I chose to have a single mastectomy. My entire left breast removed. I felt betrayed by my breast and wanted it gone. I stayed flat on that side.

While recovering and preparing myself for the next step in my treatment, I got a call from my oncologist, who was giddy with excitement. I was stage 1A, grade 1, Invasive Mammary Carcinoma (also known as Invasive Ductal Carcinoma – IDC), estrogen positive, HER2 negative; the lowest stage possible and it hadn’t spread to my lymph nodes. I didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. Surgery had taken all the cancer.

I felt so lucky. To not need more intense treatment. I was so grateful.

My treatment wasn’t done, however. That’s a big misconception - my cancer is all gone, so I’m good now and back to my normal life.

Life doesn’t really go back to “normal.” I’m on hormone treatment for 10  years, which comes with its own side effects. I’ve chosen to have more surgery. Not something I needed, but something I wanted to do as a preventative measure.

My cancer was hormonal, so I had my ovaries and fallopian tubes removed in 2021 to lower my risk of recurrence. I’m now in menopause much earlier than normal and dealing with a changing body again. Hot flashes, joint pain, insomnia… Menopause is a real joy.

I also had my other, healthy breast removed in early 2023. Again, as a preventative measure. I chose to stay flat and am so happy with my choice.

Being flat isn’t something I ever considered or thought about. Why would I want that? Will I still feel beautiful? Still feel like a woman? Like myself?

The answer, I now know, is yes. I feel more confident and beautiful than ever before. I appreciate my body so much more. I’m so proud of myself and know myself more.

Dealing with all of this has changed me in ways I never thought possible. I’m grateful for my scars, my body, my tears, my support system, my kids. I’m grateful to be here.

And so grateful for my girls jumping on me that summer morning.

Follow Mia on Instagram: @youbymia

Mia Purdy Photo by Rebecca Alexandra Photography @ralexandraphoto

National Helpline: