SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

October 3, 2012

'I just knew right away something was wrong'

No woman ever expects a breast cancer diagnosis, let alone a woman in her 30s.

But it happens, and Kelly Jackson is a perfect example.

Jackson, now 35, was diagnosed with stage 2b triple negative breast cancer when she turned 33.

“You kind of go on autopilot,” Jackson, a longtime Ipswich resident, said of her reaction. “The next step is, what do I do, what do I need to do to get rid of this.”

A rarer form of breast cancer, triple negative means the cancer is not likely to respond to hormonal therapy or to treatments that target HER2 receptors, a gene that produces a protein known to cause cancer cells.

“It’s harder to treat, which is why they don’t know much about it,” Jackson said.

Breast cancer is diagnosed in stages based on the size of the tumor and whether the cancer has spread, as defined by the American Joint Committee on Cancer. Stage 2b means the tumor is either between 2 and 5 centimeters and has spread to nearby lymph nodes, or the tumor is larger than 5 centimeters but has not spread.

Jackson was showering when she felt the lump in her breast.

“I just knew right away that something was wrong,” she said.

She made an appointment to have it checked out. Doctors, noting her young age, said it was probably nothing.

Not long afterward, however, she was meeting with a team of oncologists, surgeons, and support staff at Lahey Clinic to go over treatment options. They suggested a lumpectomy and radiation. Jackson chose to undergo a double mastectomy and breast reconstruction.

“My thoughts were, I’m 33 years old, I don’t want to have to worry the rest of my life about this,” she said.

Jackson also underwent two rounds of chemotherapy, lasting about six months, as well as drug treatments. Like many others, she lost her hair. But she was never alone.

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