If you’re a woman, how often do you check yourself for lumps in your breast? How young were you when you started doing regular checks?
A 31-year-old New Haven women is challenging women to ask themselves these questions after recently being diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 30. She has designed a bracelet to remind all women to regularly self-check their breasts for lumps.
Andrea Brooks found golf ball sized lump in her breast in March of this year.
Because she just had a new child, she says a nurse practitioner thought it might be mastitis, a common postpartum infection where breastfeeding causes a milk duct to get blocked.
Being so young, Andrea didn’t think breast cancer was a possibility. She was sent home with medication to cure the infection. It didn’t help.
“Your heart sinks and you wonder why is this not going away like it’s supposed to,” Brooks said. “I’m on medicine. I’m on antibiotics. This should be gone by now.”
A month later, the tumor was the size of a softball.
“It became a 7.2 centimeter tumor in a matter of weeks,” she continued. “It was just being fed and quicker and quicker and it was growing.”
She went to see a doctor, who determined the lump was breast cancer.
Brooks, just a 30-year-old and mother of two, was crushed.
“For the next ten years I’ll be on medicine,” she explained. “I will be trying to fight for my life at a very young age, but at 30 you don’t think you should be battling this type of thing. You should be living your life and raising your kids and building your career.”
She has since been through several months of chemo. She has a mastectomy and radiation therapy scheduled in the upcoming months.
Rather than keep any lessons learned from this experience to herself, Brooks is choosing to inspire women everywhere with her Lava Mama bracelets.
She teamed up with designer Emily Kai to create the piece of Jewelry. It’ll serve as a reminder to women of all ages to regularly self-check themselves for lumps in their breasts.
“When I first heard of Andrea’s story, it was heart wrenching,” said Kai. “I’m a young mom. I know what that’s like. It’s the most chaotic time of life.”
The bracelet’s lava stones represent strength and passion. The rose quartz stones represent breast cancer.
“This bracelet stands for all the women that have fought previously, all the women that will fight in the future,” Brooks said. “It allows people to feel connected to women going through this type of diagnosis as well.”
She and Kai are hoping to make a difference, raise awareness, and save lives. They launched the campaign on October 1 for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
People who would like to order a bracelet are encouraged to visit the Emily Kai Website. Half of all proceeds will go towards general breast cancer research and Andrea’s treatment.