My name is Ashlea Medina and being in my 20’s and having breast cancer never crossed my mind. Yes, I was aware that as I got older the risk went up, but as far as being that young, I didn’t really worry much about it. I have always been conscious of my health. I did my routine self breast exams and made sure to go to my doctor for my yearly checks while also working out and eating right. So the day I noticed a lump, I was confused about whether or not I should be concerned. I found it while I was running because of the pain associated with it and since I was aware of what my breast felt like, I noticed right off that this wasn’t right. My breast did not feel normal. However, after speaking to several others regarding my medical concern, I decided that it was probably cystic breast tissue and that I needed to stop drinking coffee or anything that contained caffeine. After a month of not having anything to drink other than water, I still had the pain in my breast. I spoke to my mother who then encouraged me to get an ultrasound. I was able to get that within a couple of days and the doctor actually came out after it was over to speak with me regarding the images. I left his office with his voice in my head saying, “I would not feel comfortable letting you leave without telling you that you need to schedule a needle biopsy”. I knew at that moment this was more than just cystic breast tissue, and so I began to pray and prepare myself for what was to come. I scheduled my needle biopsy and within two weeks I had the results; Invasive ductal carcinoma, triple negative. I had breast cancer. This to me was just unbelievable. I didn’t think this happened to women until they were in their 50’s. I was 27! When I met with my oncologist we went over my options and I decided to do a lumpectomy with chemotherapy and radiation. I had my lumpectomy November of 2010 and started my first round of chemotherapy December 3, 2010. I did four rounds of Cytoxan and Adriamycin and then moved to my second stage of treatment consisting of 12 rounds of taxal and 33 rounds of radiation. This whole process was mentally and physically draining. I had read many blogs from other women who had gone through chemotherapy in order to get a better understanding of what was happening to my body and also how long after my first round of chemo it would take for me to lose my hair; it took 16 days. As a woman this was really hard to go through but I embraced it knowing the drugs were working. I also lost my eyelashes, my eyebrows, and my finger/toe nails. I went for days not being able to go out of the house because smells were so intense that they made me nauseated. The chemotherapy actually put me into premature menopause and I started getting horrible hot flashes, which I found humor in since my mom was going through the same thing and we joked as we stuck our heads in the freezers at Walmart saying, “never would we think we would go through something like this together.” Because of the hot flashes I was unable to wear my wigs. I tried on several occasions but always found myself sweating and itching and they would end up sideways on my head, so I just said forget it! It was a little strange for me to go out that first time without it, and watching as people turned and looked, I always thought “I wonder if they know I’m sick?” I felt bad on a few occasions when children asked questions. I thought, well I hope that parent is ready for that conversation. Once at a video store, I was in line when this little boy accidentally bumped into me and his mom told him to “apologize to the lady”. He took a few moments, I think to allow more people to line up, and then said, “that ain’t even a girl mom.” I understood he didn’t know or even understand but it didn’t stop my heart from jumping just a little. The next 7 months were the most trying times of my life as I fought to beat this disease. But I knew with my faith, along with the amazing support of my family and friends, I would get through this. For three years prior to my diagnosis I had volunteered at the Race for the Cure. I was actually at the Race the day before my needle biopsy, watching the survivors’ ceremony thinking to myself “is that going to be me next year?” That was such a surreal feeling. Being associated with this amazing group prior to being diagnosed was so helpful. I knew I was able to call them and ask the many questions I had at each phase of my journey. Knowing how helpful this organization was prompted me to start volunteering at the help desk during my own treatment. It was such an honor being able to help other women as they nervously called needing answers through their journey. I finished both chemotherapy and radiation on May 30th, 2011. It took about a year and a half before my body seemed “normal”, and the dream of having kids was possible again. I know this is a disease that – at any time – could come back. Yes, I go to every follow-up appointment with that nasty feeling of “what if,” but I know that if I beat it once I can beat it again! I won’t allow that thought to control me. I will remain in control. This October, 2016, will mark 7 years since I heard those dreadful words: you have cancer….Yes, the experience was a hard and scary one, but it was also one that changed my life for the better. I am stronger, more resilient and I have met some of the most amazing and inspirational women through this journey and have made some really great friends. Today I am cancer free, and am so grateful for the life that God has given me. I honestly thank Jesus every day for giving me a second chance at life. In 2014, God introduced me to the most amazing man and as we began to discuss our future, I had the “I had cancer” talk. I had to explain my journey and also tell him that I may not be able have babies, but it didn’t scare him away; we both decided that if it was within God’s plans we would have children. Now, 2016, we are married and the month of October, which was once stamped with fear, will now be one that is full of love and joy as we will be meeting our first baby; our little miracle!