But that’s exactly what happened to US woman Leslie Almiron when she was only 22 years old.
The pendant from her necklace had fallen off and when she went to retrieve it, her hand brushed against something abnormal. She told People that she didn’t think much of it at the time but upon closer inspection while showering she found it to be a lump.
Given her young age and medical history she wasn’t deeply concerned, and neither were her mother and GP. But she was referred to have an ultrasound and then recommended to make an appointment with a breast surgeon. The lump was biopsied and Leslie got a call a week later: it was cancer – stage 3.
She went on to undergo chemotherapy, radiation and a double mastectomy.
Although breast cancer predominantly affects older generations, two Australian women between the ages of 20 and 39 will be diagnosed with the disease each day. Battling breast cancer at such a young age comes with unique medical and psychosocial challenges, including impacted fertility, premature menopause, delayed career progression and struggles with caring for children.
Leslie admits she was overwhelmed when a doctor suggested freezing her eggs.
“I’m just freaking out,” she told People. “I’m thinking ‘I have cancer, I’m not going to live to have children. Why do you want me to do this?’ “
She had been with her boyfriend for four years but they hadn’t seriously discussed having kids.
“I had to call him and say, ‘Hey, I have to freeze my eggs. Do you think you’re going to love me forever? Should we do embryos?’” she recalls. “That’s just a conversation I don’t need to be having at 22.”
Leslie did end up freezing 26 eggs before starting her treatment, and she finished her last round of chemo late last year.