Claire Stokes was pregnant with her second child when she first felt the symptoms of breast cancer in 2011. But she didn’t recognize them for what they were, and neither did her doctor.
Claire described the feeling as similar to the way she remembered her breasts feeling when she’d been breastfeeding her first child, her daughter, Yasmin. Her right breast felt a little heavier than the other one, although they looked the same size and there was no visible sign or any pain. But Claire knew something didn’t feel quite right, so she didn’t hesitate to see the doctor.
But the doctor didn’t find anything unusual. He believed the milk that was present in the duct in preparation for her unborn child was the cause of the change in heaviness. So Claire went home. Then her right breast became slightly larger than the other one, her bra began to feel uncomfortable, and her nipple started to flatten. She continued to believe it was just hormones.
After the birth of her son, Ethan, she was only able to breastfeed him using her left breast. Her doctor recommended a biopsy, and Claire finally got her diagnosis: stage III breast cancer.
Claire underwent chemotherapy and a single radical mastectomy to rid her body of the cancer. She was given the all-clear, but after routine screenings, she was told her cancer had returned and had metastasized to her bones and liver, even causing a fracture in one of her ribs.
Sadly, Claire passed away in January of 2015 at the age of 39. Her legacy, however, has lived on, resulting in the creation of the Cancer Club in Dubai and encouraging many women to get to know their bodies and to get recommended screenings.
Her story is tragic, but her message is so important. Cancer doesn’t always present itself with the “normal” symptoms. If you feel like something isn’t right, get checked out. In the video below, learn more about Claire’s diagnosis and the “abnormal” symptoms you should look out for.
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?