Tatiana Konovalov was just 19 years old when she first discovered a lump in her breast. She made an appointment with her doctor to have it examined and even had an ultrasound done, but her doctor brushed it off as a cyst and didn’t want to do any further testing.
However, something didn’t feel quite right to the California native. Although she initially excepted that it was just a benign cyst, she continued to have her doctors take a look at the lump every time she went in for a check-up. Each time, they assured her she was too young for breast cancer and that she shouldn’t worry about it.
“I received answers like, ‘It’s an unnecessary surgery,’ and ‘If it was cancer, it would be affecting you already,'” Tatiana recalls. “I was dismissed mostly because of my age and lack of family history. At nineteen, it was likely not breast cancer, and so rarely happens at that age, that it was dismissed.”
Over the years, Tatiana’s “cyst” continued to grow larger and become more uncomfortable for her. Eventually, her boyfriend, Erik, insisted that she see a doctor about removing it.
Tatiana had a biopsy in September of 2018, and the results confirmed what she’d always sort of suspected deep in her heart: it was breast cancer.
“Up until my doctors had the biopsy results, they denied the fact that it could be breast cancer,” Tatiana says. “No one wants to insist to a doctor that they might have breast cancer; now I know that I should have pushed harder.”
Despite her suspicions, however, cancer hit Tatiana just as hard as if she’d had no idea it was there.
“When I was diagnosed, I imagine I felt like most people do when they hear the ‘C’ word,” she says. “My life came to a screeching halt.”
By the time the cancer was diagnosed, Tatiana was 27 years old, and she had had the lump she thought was a cyst for eight years. Thankfully, it was not a fast-growing form of the disease, but Tatiana still had a great deal of treatment ahead of her.
She had to undergo a lumpectomy to remove the tumor, as well as six rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and then a full mastectomy. Although her surgery in March showed no cancerous cells, she will still have radiation therapy and 10 more rounds of chemo to help eradicate any remaining cancerous cells and discourage the cancer from regrowing. She also has reconstructive surgery ahead for her removed breasts.
Tatiana says some parts of the journey have been easier than others, and there are still a lot of difficult patches ahead and unanswered questions, but all in all, she’s happy to have had the experience. She hopes other women will take her story seriously and get checked regularly.
“Scars and a fuzzy head are my new normal and I accept that. I love that I found grace and strength in this journey and know it will define the rest of my life.”
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?