By: Joelle Fanelli

It all started when I found out that my Aunt carried the BRCA 2 Gene. She tested because she herself was diagnosed with breast cancer at an early age.  She did not have any children of her own to worry about, but she did however; have five nieces.

If it was not for my Aunt getting the testing done, I may not be here today. I knew when my twin sister tested positive with BRCA 2, I too would be positive. For the past few years I made sure to keep up with my preventative care every six months.  One day, after arriving home from my mammogram appointment, I received a call from my doctor that I needed to go back for a follow up. From that point on it was doctor appointment after doctor appointment. I went from being diagnosed to starting chemotherapy treatments within two weeks. All thanks to my doctor, who set me up with a great team of oncologists at MD Anderson in Jacksonville.

I was devastated and stunned that I, a 35-year-old was diagnosed with stage II breast cancer. I knew the journey was not going to be easy, but I also knew, I had no choice. It was at that moment, that I realized I had to fight to save my life. I had too much to live for, with three young children at home. I myself know what it is like to lose a parent, I knew I could not let my children feel that same heartache.

I tried my best to stay strong throughout the lengthy process and stay positive. I made it a point to not dwell on the negative and just get through my days the best I could. I took it day by day, not knowing that each day brought different obstacles and emotions.

It is important to have a strong support system around you, I could not have gotten through it without all of my family and friends. My husband supported me by bringing me to my chemotherapy treatments and sitting there for hours with me. My father and in-laws took turns in caring for my three children, by picking them up from school and watching them while I was at my treatments.  My Aunt and sisters helped with laundry, cooking, cleaning and helping by providing meals. Friends and neighbors came to support me by bringing over gifts and special treats to lift up my spirits.

As I was going through this difficult time, it was nice to be able to relate to others that were also going through their own difficult journey. For me it was nice to be able to relate to them and help each other cope through the process. They were the first ones I reached out to when things did not go smoothly for me after my double mastectomy. It really took a village to get us through it!

I am happy to say, a year later I am completing my journey with one last surgery this month, on October 27th. I am so excited to be able to get to some type of normalcy after this whirlwind!!

I cannot stress the importance of staying up to date with your routine screenings. Routine screenings and checkups saved my life. Never would I have imagined I would have stage II breast cancer at the age of 35.Please go and get checked regularly to prevent yourself from going through this dreadful illness.

A wise woman once told me that treatment is going to be like moving a mountain, and after going through it, I would have to agree. It is not an easy journey, but you can do it! Stay positive, take it day by day, and remember this too shall pass!