Mother. Advocate. Fighter.
At 25-years-old, most women are just starting to find themselves. They’re launching careers, traveling, dating, some are even starting families. For Kelsey Reigle, a local mother and Paralegal at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape, her self-discovery journey was taking a slightly different path.
In May of this year, Kelsey noticed a lump in her right breast while showering. It took some time for Kelsey to fully grasp what she already knew… After a brief call with her mother, she made an appointment with her OBGYN for a breast exam, which led to an ultrasound.
On June 19th, Kelsey was diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS), a non-invasive type of breast cancer that starts in the milk ducts. While the diagnosis came as a complete shock because Kelsey did not carry the gene mutation, Kelsey’s family had a history of similar diagnosis – so the possibility was always in the back of everyone’s mind.
DCIS is typically diagnosed as Stage 0, which helped to instill some hope back into Kelsey as she prepared herself for the journey ahead. This diagnosis would mean a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery – no chemotherapy needed, and Kelsey would be able to get back to her life in just a few short months.
On July 10th, Kelsey had a partial mastectomy to remove the tumor and to test for HER-2, a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells. Seven days later, her breast surgeon called to let Kelsey know that her diagnosis was now Triple Negative Breast Cancer.
For those who don’t know, triple negative breast cancer is a more aggressive diagnosis. A diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer means that the three most common types of receptors known to fuel most breast cancer growth–estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene– are not present in the cancer tumor. Since the tumor cells lack the necessary receptors, treatments like hormone therapy and drugs that target estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 are ineffective – meaning Kelsey’s treatment plan went from 4-6 weeks to at least 16, and she would now have to go through chemotherapy.
When Kelsey had time to process her new diagnosis, she began to form a checklist in her mind, the same way she was used to doing for the sexual assault survivors that she worked with. She started thinking about her financial situation, the bills, her job, her daughter, and her family. Kelsey put on her advocate hat, and her years of training kicked in.
Kelsey is now nearing the end of her chemotherapy, with just four rounds left to go. The first four rounds, arguably the toughest, are known as the “red devil” – due to medication’s red color and reputation of harsh side effects.
As 2019 begins to wind down, Kelsey looks forward to the new year and getting her life back on track after the whirlwind that 2019 has been.
Kelsey’s Diagnosis Does Not Define Her
Kelsey is an advocate at heart. Our team was lucky enough to sit down with her for just under an hour, and not once did she put herself or her diagnosis first. As she shared her story with us, you could see the passion and drive in her eyes when she talked about how she wanted to use her battle with breast cancer as a means to connect with women (and men) around the world who may face the same diagnosis.
Something that Kelsey reiterated to our team was, “You can’t prevent cancer, but you can do things health-wise that is preventative.” She stressed the importance of early detection – as early detection is key. When breast cancer is detected early and is in the localized stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is 100%.
Kelsey has a 3-year-old daughter who is the light of her life, and the driving force of her fight. Kelsey was diagnosed with breast cancer five years younger than her grandmother was when diagnosed, and she knows that it’s up to her to raise her daughter to look for the signs.
After she was diagnosed, Kelsey began to write. She started a blog, Tales of TNBC, to help keep her family and friends updated. You can head over to her blog to read more about her story, in her own words, and to see for yourself just how inspiring Kelsey is!
“My journey has just started, but there’s a fire in me that I never knew I had. I have cancer, but it will never have me.”