SURVIVORS SPEAK: “Don’t think, it can’t happen to me.”

Breast Cancer Awareness

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women and the second most common cancer overall. Melissa Van Huss was diagnosed at just 35 years old.

Most doctors recommend starting yearly mammograms at the age of 40, which is when most insurance companies start to cover them. But, as you can see in Melissa’s case, cancer does not wait.

“I didn’t think a whole lot about it. I was 35 years old, I had no reason, no family history or reason to suspect anything” Melissa remembers. “Then I started to notice I almost had hardened tissue, is what it felt like. I didn’t think it was your typical breast cancer lump.”

When the strange feeling mass did not go away for several weeks, Melissa and her husband decided it should not be ignored.

“You could almost feel something there and I had what looked like a cooked spaghetti noddle right underneath the skin,” she says.

Melissa went in for her very first mammogram, which came back inconclusive. At a biopsy the next day, what she learned was hard to wrap her mind around.

“Two nurses came in and said, ‘We are sorry to tell you this but it’s breast cancer,'” Melissa says. My doctors were very surprised. They said ‘We have not really seen this before, it’s kind of unusual.'”

That is because the cancer, even at stage zero, was growing quickly.

“Because of the size and the aggressiveness of the cancer, they said I had necrosis which means that the cancer cells are growing so quickly they are starting to die off and kill themselves. At that time because of my age and I didn’t want to have to worry about it in the future, I decided to do a bilateral mastectomy,” says Melissa.

She took the next steps quickly. “You don’t have a lot of time to process what’s happening. You’re so focused on, ‘let’s attack this, let’s move, let’s take care of it.'”

The doctors praised Melissa and her intuitiveness tot ake action when she noticed something unusual. At only 35, breast cancer was not yet on her radar at all.

“Don’t think, ‘it can’t happen to me.’ That’s what I thought initially, I thought, it can’t be cancer, my family doesn’t have cancer. There is no history there, I am young and healthy. Just watch your body. Watch for signs of anything that has changed or feels different or strange,” says Melissa.

She says she relied on family, friends and faith to win her battle against cancer.

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