When Monique Robinson found a lump in her left breast in her 20s, she wasn’t really alarmed.
Coming from a family with no known history of breast cancer, Robinson, who was then a law student, kept an eye on her situation for a few years before having it tested.
The results showed that even though the lump was abnormal, it was nonthreatening. So she moved on with her life until a few years later when she found another lump in that same breast.
Then 32, she got it tested again, but this time around, it turned out worse – she was diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer.
“It was one of the few times when I have received information from someone and I immediately started crying,” the now 36-year-old attorney from Los Angeles said. “It was a very scary word. I didn’t know what it meant. I was scared. I was emotional.”
Robinson decided to read more about breast cancer to be able to take a hold on the kind of treatment she needed.
In August of 2015, she had surgery on the cancerous breast and finished chemotherapy three months later. Moving into her reconstruction phase, she was placed on hormone blockers in early 2016 to keep the disease from coming back.
Things were moving on smoothly until she found another lump under her implant – this was 14 months after her chemo. Initially, she thought the lump would disappear after her menstrual cycle or it was probably scar tissue from her surgery, but after three weeks, she still found it there.
She subsequently went to her radiologist who scheduled a biopsy. In March 2017, Robinson was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time.
“The first time I was diagnosed, I just figured I was unlucky, but I always felt confident that I would be fine.
“When the breast cancer came back, my first thought was that it was because I didn’t do enough the first time around. After some time, I realized that no one was to blame for my recurrence, including myself,” she said.
Opting for more aggressive treatment, Robinson underwent a full, double mastectomy and completed four rounds of chemo. This was followed by 30 rounds of radiation and six months of oral chemo.
Fortunately, that method of treatment has been positive as there has been no evidence of the disease in her system since 2017.
“I’ve had a few scares since then, but I’m all good,” said Robinson, who is now on a more aggressive form of hormone therapy. “I’m grateful, but I’m also pragmatic, so it has been really important for me to monitor myself and be vigilant about my check-ups.”
Robinson’s story comes as the world observes October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is recognized internationally to spread awareness of the disease and to allocate funds that will go towards researching the cause of the disease, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), although black women have lower rates of getting breast cancer, black women have higher rates of dying from the illness; breast cancer death rates are 40% higher for black women.