Today we are sharing the final blog post featuring the top 3 photographs from our 2014 Year in Review Contest. Some of you might be wondering why we waited so long to post Carly and Ulises’ beautiful wedding at The Athenaeum in Pasadena. But, there is a very important and specific reason we waited until now.
As many of you know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And, even though this amazing bride is only in her mid-twenties, she was diagnosed with breast cancer almost exactly 1 year before her wedding. Despite her diagnosis, Carly has been constantly positive and extremely selfless. She wanted to use her experience to educate others about getting checked, even if they think they are too young to get breast cancer. You can read Carly’s full story at the end of this blog post, but here is a small excerpt:
“On May 10, 2014, I married the best man I know, the person who stood by me throughout my entire diagnosis and treatment, the person I am proud to call my husband. After having endured so much together early on in our relationship, I am confident that we can get through anything together. Our wedding was everything I had dreamed of and more. We had so much to celebrate and it meant so much to me to have everyone we love together in one room doing just that.”
At Carly and Ulises’ wedding, there were so many touching moments we were honored to capture throughout the day. In particular, their vows during the ceremony had such special meaning. There aren’t many young couples that can relate to vowing to stand together “in sickness and health” quite like these two. For many couples, these words might be thought of in future tense. But, Carly and Ulises had already survived cancer… together. I can only imagine how much these two had grown as a couple even before they said “I Do”.
We also want to thank all the wonderful people we had the pleasure of working with at this beautiful wedding! You guys are awesome!
In late April 2013, while taking a shower, I noticed a small lump in my left breast. At first, I didn’t think too much of it, but over the next week I couldn’t take my mind off it. I decided I should probably have it checked out by a doctor. At only 24 years old, I honestly never thought it would turn out to be cancer. Even during the biopsy procedure, the doctor said “9 times out of 10, in women your age, these biopsy results come back normal.” Well, I guess I was that 1 in 10. On May 21, 2013, the biopsy results came back. The initial diagnosis was Ductal Carcinoma Insitu (DCIS), a very early stage of breast cancer found inside a milk duct in my left breast.
As you can probably imagine, this was the scariest thing to hear. I found out while driving home from work and I cried the whole way home. Here I was, a healthy young adult up until this point, only 5 months engaged to my best friend, just starting to plan our wedding, and looking forward to an amazing year ahead of celebration, and suddenly… everything came to a screeching halt. Over the next few weeks, I spent my days visiting doctors, trying to wrap my head around what this diagnosis meant and what the plan of action would be. My mom has two cousins that have had breast cancer, so I asked to be tested for the “breast cancer genes”, BRCA1 and BRCA2, which thankfully came back negative. Despite the fact that DCIS is not an invasive type of cancer (meaning it has not spread outside of the duct into the rest of the breast tissue), it was recommended that due to my young age, I undergo a double mastectomy to remove all of my breast tissue. Though it was a difficult decision to make, and some may say a little aggressive, I trusted my doctors and wanted nothing more than to eradicate this thing and eliminate as much possibility of cancer returning as I could. On June 14, 2013, I had a double mastectomy with reconstruction. After surgery they reported that my cancer was no longer considered DCIS because the cancer had already started to spread outside of the duct. They found 4mm of invasive cancer. Thankfully, all of my lymph nodes were clear and they were able to get it all, but because of that small margin of invasive cancer, radiation was recommended.
After 2 months of recovery, I began my course of 25 radiation sessions. For those of you that don’t know, radiation is kind of like going to the tanning bed every single day (but worse) and getting a really bad sunburn in the same spot over and over again. It was not a painful procedure, but the results of it are very uncomfortable. Not only does radiation cause skin irritation but can also cause sharp pains, fever, makes you extremely fatigued, and lowers your immune system substantially. Unfortunately the symptoms of radiation are also very similar to the symptoms of an infection. In my final week of radiation, those sharp pains got increasingly worse to the point that I couldn’t move and was in tears. It turned out that what was thought to be side effects of the radiation, ended up being an infection. In September of 2013, I had to have the left implant removed and was hospitalized to fight the infection. Thankfully, I recovered well. With only 8 months until our big day, I decided not to have reconstruction again before the wedding. After all, Uli and I had just bought our first home and I wanted to enjoy our engagement and planning our wedding without the stress of recovery and hospitals. On May 10, 2014, I married the best man I know, the person who stood by me throughout my entire diagnosis and treatment, the person I am proud to call my husband. After having endured so much together early on in our relationship, I am confident that we can get through anything together. Our wedding was everything I had dreamed of and more. We had so much to celebrate and it meant so much to me to have everyone we love together in one room doing just that.
Today I am healthy and living my life to the fullest. I take hormone suppressor medication daily as part of my cancer treatment, which has put starting a family on hold, but I look forward to someday being a mom. Next month, on November 6th I will finally have my reconstructive surgery to have my left breast rebuilt. It will be another long road to recovery, but I am so ready and so excited to finally feeling back to my normal self again. I also feel strongly that my strength throughout this ordeal would not have been possible without the love and support of my family and friends… From encouraging words and prayers, to hospital visits and more… I am forever grateful to have an army of love and support in my corner.
I still don’t know what exactly caused this cancer to appear in a healthy 24 year old, but I can tell you that being aware of my body and being my own advocate saved me. Young women don’t expect to get hit with a cancer diagnosis, but it is becoming much more common than you think. It kills me to think that women experience symptoms and don’t go to the doctor because they think it can’t happen to them. I feel so blessed to have found this cancer as early as I did. No one knows your body better than you do. If something doesn’t seem right, get it checked out and be your own advocate. It can happen to anyone, regardless of your age, and early detection can make all the difference. A special thank you to Adam and Amber, our incredible wedding photographers, for allowing me to share my story in this blog and promoting breast cancer awareness. You are a class act and SO good at what you do! We are so glad to have crossed paths with you.
This experience has certainly made me a stronger person. As a survivor, I hold my loved ones closer. I don’t put things off, like vacations. I create moments that count and I try to surround myself with positive people and things. I try not to sweat the small stuff anymore. Breast cancer did not ruin my life. It changed it. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m going to make whatever time I have left on this earth purposeful and meaningful. I share my story because I want people to know that they are not alone, that despite whatever struggles you might be going through, you can and will get through it. In the end, sometimes what is in store for us is much bigger and better than we can possibly imagine.
And as always in true Trojan fashion… Fight On!