Brynn Barale, now 41, was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 26. After not getting the answers she was seeking from her physicians about preventative measures she could take to ward off future bouts of cancer, the North Carolina resident began her own research into the role endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may have played in her disease.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer a month before my 27th birthday. It was a complete shock because I was so young. As I started telling people about my diagnosis, everybody's response was, “But you're the healthiest person I know.” I had never thought of myself this way, and it made me wonder, “If I’m so healthy, then why did this happen to me?”
It was stage one, so I had a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tissue. I immediately started chemo, after which I had 33 radiation treatments. When that was finished, I joined a clinical trial for five years which basically put me into medically induced menopause. I did everything I could to heal myself with conventional medicine. If my oncologist suggested something and said, “This could reduce your risk by 2% of your cancer coming back,” I was like, “Sign me up. I'm doing it.” I said “yes” to everything because I was scared.
I asked a lot of questions. One of the biggest ones was, “I'm 26. How long has this been there?” I was told that my cancer probably started forming five years earlier, which is the normal timeframe between a tumor emerging and when most women actually feel the lump. My response was, “Whoa, so what did I do to my body by the time I was 21 years old to cause this?” I was told it was probably something environmental, but nobody wanted to help me explore the root of the issue beyond this vague answer. I had to do all the research on my own.
I received wonderful medical care, but there wasn’t a lot of dialogue about how I could take control of my health and minimize my future risk. To be honest, I think that was mostly due to my age. My team was more focused on the immediate issues, like getting me through chemo. But I was also concerned with living until I'm an old lady! I wanted help understanding what more I could do to reduce my chances of this happening again.