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My life-changing breast cancer journey: Adrienne Elliot’s Story

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2022: 

  • About 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women 
  • About 43,250 women will die from breast cancer 

On average, a woman’s risk of developing breast cancer is about 13 percent. If you haven’t battled the disease yourself, it’s likely that someone close to you has or will in her lifetime. 

All woman affected by breast cancer have a unique story to tell, each underscored by perseverance and courage. Here, two Coast women open up about how the disease has impacted their lives.

Adrienne is director of design and style for Elliott Homes and owner and founder of Styled, a virtual interior styling service. She has been married to her husband, Brandon, for 13 years, and they have three girls. 

What is your diagnosis? When and how did you receive it? 

(My diagnosis is) lobular carcinoma, stage one. Last year, I had a mammogram done, and it was clear. I opted to have pathology done when I had a breast lift on June 9, thinking nothing of it because of my clear mammogram. 

At my one-week post-op checkup, the surgeon told me I had breast cancer. At that point, all he could tell me was the type of cancer and that it was early. They had no idea if it had spread. From that point, I saw an oncologist very quickly, who gave me two options: bilateral mastectomy or lumpectomy with radiation. This type of cancer posed the risk of spreading to my other breast, so although I just underwent surgery a week before, they suggested I opt for the mastectomy to rule out any future risk. 

Three weeks later, I followed their advice. They removed lymph nodes during my surgery, too, which I am extremely grateful to say were negative. 

Did you show any symptoms? 

I did not have a single symptom or suspicion, mainly due to the clear mammogram last year. 

What was your reaction? What was your loved ones’ reaction? 

(It was) complete shock and fear. You never think you will hear the “c” word, especially at age 37 with three young girls. When I was in the doctor’s office, I was on my own, so I had to make myself focus. When I got into my car, I definitely had a very long and deep cry. I was 1.5 hours away from home, and looking back, I am extremely grateful I had that time to process and get “unstuck” from that moment. On that drive, a feeling came over me of knowing that down the road, I was meant to share my story, but I did not know how or why. 

My husband, Brandon, supported me in a way only he could from the minute I told him — strong, understanding and beyond willing to help in all aspects of the journey. He came to every appointment. My mom, who is also a survivor, was emotional support on a level beyond a mother — a survivor and a guardian angel. My dad and brother showed up for additional emotional strength and support from miles away. 

With Brandon’s encouragement, we shared with our girls that mommy had cancer. Each had her own reaction. It was important for us to show them that this is real life and how we get through it as a family. They loved and cared for me in the most precious ways. 

Family and friends were beyond incredible even on the day of my surgery. I am just so grateful. 

How did you process the news, and how did you decide what your approach would be? 

I had a few people with whom I was very open with my emotions. From the day I found out, I told myself I needed to be open with how I was feeling so those around me could understand. In the first few days, it was almost easier to not be around the girls. I would break down and cry because I was very anxious and scared. 

As I learned more, I shared with more people. I found it easier to tell people when I had more facts. To be honest, I knew nothing about breast cancer, so I was learning a lot quickly. I knew I had to be strong, but I also was not ashamed to say to those closest when I was breaking inside. You feel so out of control. 

What treatments have you undergone, and what is your prognosis? 

I am on a hormone blocker because I am estrogen positive. Thankfully this is my only treatment, which they are recommending for 10 years. 

What message or words of advice do you have for other women? 

Be authentic to the rush of emotions you are feeling; express them when you need to. Know there is hope. Be open to communicating to help you heal. Reach out to other women, and you will be amazed at how many others are going through or have been through breast cancer. 

How has this journey changed you? 

I had no choice but to slow down, listen to my heart and feel the positive energy and thoughts. Many women reached out and said the journey is just as emotional as it is physical. It brought me back to taking the time to meditate and center my heart. 

Have you wanted to give up? How have you pushed forward? 

No, I feel extreme gratitude for my journey. Friends and family where there to assure me I did not have to be “OK.” Today, I just want to share a story of hope and education. 

How do you feel about yourself and approach your condition today? 

Of course, (I feel) extreme gratitude. I think (I am) motivated that our girls were able to see our family get through this as a unit. Hopefully, I’m an inspiration to others to seek early detection 

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