Andrea Cordy is a wise woman for someone so young. “There’s no good time to get cancer,” says the 36-year-old survivor. “Your world comes to screeching halt.”
Andrea’s world hit halt in November 2015. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 34 years old. My gynecologist found a lump in my left breast during my annual visit, which included a breast exam. Shortly after being diagnosed, I was tested and learned I had the BRCA 1 gene mutation. (Yes, this is the mutation made famous by Angelina Jolie.) As a result, my likelihood of developing breast and ovarian cancer were significantly increased.”
In Andreas’s situation, there were many decisions to be made. “You have a lot of very critical information being thrown at you. There’s no way to manage expectations,” she adds. “My treatment included 16 rounds of chemo, a lumpectomy, radiation, oophorectomy and a double mastectomy with a DIEP flap reconstruction.”
There were also lessons to be learned, says Andrea. “I’m far stronger… more tenacious than I thought I could be. It’s true – you don’t know your strength until you have no choice. I learned perspective. I learned vulnerability. It’s hard to proactively ask for help and receive it. But you learn.”
“They call cancer a journey for a reason. It’s important to take each step in the process as your travel through this,” she advises. “I held on to my faith. I knew that in the end it was going to be good – so if it wasn’t good, we weren’t at the end.”
Andrea has become a strong advocate for young survivors and their unique needs. “There are losses to be grieved and grief is not a quick process.” Specifically, Andrea wants all young women receiving a breast cancer diagnosis to be able to see a reproductive specialist before treatment begins.
On the plus side of the ledger, says Andrea, were some big positives. “I got to hear how people felt about me. I never felt so loved.”