SCOTIA, N.Y. (NEWS10) — Around 4-6% of women under the age of 40 are diagnosed with breast cancer. In a rare event, Macee Maddock, who turned 27 this year, was diagnosed. She wanted to share her story with NEWS10’s Trishna Begam to spread awareness and encourage other young women to talk to their doctors.
Macee’s life has felt like it has been flashing before her eyes since October of 2020.
“Most of them are strong and happy photos,” she said as she showed us a collage of memories documenting a scary journey. “This photo is the day I found the lump,” she pointed out.
In the prime of her life, Maddock had moved to another state and started her teaching career.
“At first they didn’t think it was going to be cancer at all,” she remembered.
Though, she insisted on getting it checked. “It was in my gut,” Maddock said. “They say it’s the most lethal type of breast cancer.”
Doctors found more than one lump. “The surgeon actually found the second tumor,” Maddock explained. “During his check, he found the second tumor, which was bigger and deeper.”
Her life wasn’t just flashing before her eyes. “My whole life just got turned upside down,” Maddock said. “I knew I was not going to be able to work. I knew I was going to have something happen to my chest, that I couldn’t really have a say in.”
“I couldn’t feel anything. I was like, I have to go,” Macee’s mom recollected.
Her mom Kelly Benoit brought her home to Scotia and got her into one of the top cancer treatment centers in the country, the Dana-Farber Institute in Boston.
Dr. Ann Partridge, Founder and Director of the Program for Young Women with Breast Cancer at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is Maddock’s medical oncologist, “By the time Macee came in it was big enough we need it to approach it by giving chemotherapy before surgery so we could shrink it down.”
The chemo took more than just her hair.
“I really did lose the life I had been building for the last four years, and that’s been so hard,” Maddock explained.
Though sometimes it is in the darkest of moments that beauty can emerge. “The support I received, especially in the beginning,” she added.
Human or four-legged, by her side through the sad days, the happy, and when she shaved her head. “It was devastating,” Maddock said.
Until her two nieces surprised her and did the same. “I thought it was going to be so sad, but my family made it incredible,” Maddock remembered.
Her family waited outside for her as she received her last chemo treatment a few weeks ago. Maddock has managed to capture and save so many of these milestones, and thankfully her doctors say there will be plenty more.
“Macee’s prognosis is excellent right now. She appears to have had a very nice response to chemotherapy. We’ll know more at surgery,” Dr. Partridge explained.
“I’ll be having a double mastectomy,” Maddock said.
A huge change for her body, as she looks at life through a different lens.
“Once you start to lose those external things it makes it harder,” she said. “It’ll be a process of loving myself again.”
She has something more than just photographs to remind her of her strength. For every treatment, every appointment, there is a journal entry.
“It’s scary and unfair because I cannot control it, but I can control how I live my days,” she read for one of her medical journals. “I have to cherish every day, especially the good ones.”
Words to remind her if she hadn’t spoken up to her doctors, she may not have been here to tell her story. “I want people to be aware breast cancer doesn’t just happen in your 50s after menopause, it’s happening to women in their 20s.”
Though rare, it can happen. A life changing diagnosis for Maddock. “It made me see internally what is beautiful,” she added.
Giving her new reasons to smile, and more memories to hold close.
Dr. Partridge added some numbers to keep in mind if you are young and worried. The occurrence of breast cancer in young women is about 1 in 2,000 women in their 20s and 1 in 250 women in their 30s.
While young age at onset of breast cancer is a hallmark of having a genetic predisposition to the disease such as having a BRCA 1 or BRCA pathogenic variant (“mutation”), only about 10-15% of women, including women under age 40 will be found to have a BRCA mutation at diagnosis. Maddock did not have the gene mutation.
There are several other genes that one can test for these days in expanded panel testing which are less common and/or less likely to cause breast cancer (though still higher than the general population risk) and if you include those, then about 20-25% of young women appear to test positive for a genetic predisposition.
Dr. Partridge also mentioned during her interview if you feel a lump or bump bring it to your doctor’s attention if you are worried and to keep following up if it’s changing at all and don’t hesitate to demand attention about your concerns.