Brooke Taylor was 32 and pregnant with her first child when she noticed a lump in her breast. But when she brought the issue up to her doctor, she was told to wait, because it was probably pregnancy-related and nothing to worry about.
However, Brooke’s maternal instincts wouldn’t let her forget about the lump. Something just didn’t seem right. At her 38-week prenatal checkup, she insisted that her doctor examine the lump in her breast.
“I actually took off my shirt and said, ‘I’m not leaving until you feel this,'” Brooke says. “I will never forget the look on her face when she felt the lump. I saw the color drain from her face and she looked at me.”
Brooke was scheduled for an ultrasound and a biopsy the following day. The day after that, a breast health surgeon called her to give her the heartwrenching news: she had breast cancer.
Brooke and her husband were devastated and overwhelmed by the news. Little did they know, however, the day was about to get even crazier.
“I waddled into the bedroom where my husband was and I just let myself cry,” recalls Brooke. “But I didn’t cry for very long, because my OBGYN called and said, ‘How fast can you get here?'”
The couple packed up their vehicle and rushed to the hospital for an emergency C-section so that Brooke could start cancer treatment as soon as possible. Their daughter, Elsie James Taylor, was born on July 22nd at 2:04 pm, roughly six hours after Brooke’s diagnosis. Elsie was born healthy and without complication.
“It was a miracle in itself that she was healthy and ready to join the world,” says Brooke. “We spent the whole day just being kind of in shock and enjoying our new baby.
But that precious moment wouldn’t last long either. Soon, doctors were crowding into her hospital room to discuss her cancer and treatment plans.
Brooke was informed that she had stage III invasive ductal breast cancer—two tumors in her right breast and one in her left. Genetic testing also uncovered that Brooke carries the BRCA 1 mutation that makes her more likely than other women to develop breast and ovarian cancer.
Brooke’s best course of treatment was chemotherapy, followed by a double mastectomy and six weeks of radiation. After that, she could undergo another surgery for breast reconstruction if she desired. She was given two weeks to recover from her Caesarean section before embarking on a 20-week chemotherapy journey.
Now just as bald as her baby and entering premature menopause, Brooke is taking it as easy as she can while on chemotherapy, sleeping when the baby sleeps just like the old saying says to do. She’s three months into this crazy journey and feeling like she’s starting to get a handle on her life again. She’s balancing cancer treatment and new motherhood beautifully, even if her life is a looking a little unorthodox right now.
“I don’t know what normal is, because I went from pregnancy to medically-induced menopause,” Brooke says. “I have hormones all over the place.”
Brooke’s story is an important reminder that breast cancer can happen to anyone, even young women in their childbearing years. In fact, pregnant women and new moms need to be especially vigilant when it comes to breast cancer symptoms, because their hormones could be feeding their cancer. Breast cancer symptoms are also often more hidden or more likely to be overlooked during pregnancy, as was the case for Brooke.
“During pregnancy, if there is a self-perceived change in the breast, that really needs to be chased, it needs to be evaluated and monitored throughout the pregnancy,” says Brooke’s doctor, John Farmer, a surgeon and founder of Breast Health Specialists of Oklahoma. “We know that breast cancers will continue to progress if left untreated.”
Brooke still has some fighting left to do before she can be declared cancer-free, but things are going as expected, and she has great hopes and dreams for the future. For now, she’s counting her cancer milestones and her baby growth milestones right alongside each other.
“My hope is at her first birthday I have a short pixie and we don’t have to talk about cancer at all because there are no more appointments or tests,” Brooke says. “My doctor said the goal is at Elsie’s fifth birthday I’ll be able to fire him.”
Here’s to all the superhero moms who are raising their kids while they battle cancer. You’re the real superheroes! Check out the video to learn more about Brooke’s story.
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?