Growing Up at 15: The Story of a Teenage Breast Cancer Survivor

Jennifer Galvan

by Jennifer Galvan | October 24, 2011 @ 08:00AM

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15 Year Old Breast Cancer Survivor SarahOur teen years are usually made up of struggles involving puppy love, bad skin, and terrible times in high school. But for 15 year old Sarah Budulica, these trivial problems were nothing compared to the news she received – breast cancer. Originally from Australia and having traveled to Africa with family at the age of 11, it was there that she first discovered the lump on her right breast – just weeks away from her Sweet 16. Sarah recalls “when I discovered the lump I went straight to my dad as he was the only one home at the time…my mum was in Australia.”

Sarah then went to have the lump checked out – mammograms confirmed that she had breast cancer. In the following weeks, the lump grew quickly and it was decided that the best option was to operate and remove it. With no time to spare, Sarah underwent surgery while still in Africa. However, post-surgery, doctors discovered that there were two lumps growing in different locations. Shortly after and hearing that it was on the border of malignancy, Sarah returned to Australia to undergo more intensive treatments and additional surgeries. Now, at 19 years old, Sarah is ready to undergo her fifth and final (hopefully!) surgery – breast reconstruction.

“I’ve had all the expanding done (with the tissue expander that they put in my chest) where my breast used to be and I had my last injection on September 20th. Now I don’t have another appointment ['til] November 22nd. Then I’m hoping from there that they will set a date for the actual reconstruction surgery for the last touchups.”

When asked about the type of reconstruction she will undergo, Sarah replied, “As far as the method of reconstruction, I didn’t really have a choice on how to go about it because I had very little to work with, so we ended up flipping my [latissimus] dorsi flap on my right and over my right side of my chest and put the tissue expander under it.”

Breast cancer is life changing event at any age, but when someone as young as Sarah is diagnosed, what kind of support is out there? She comments, “As far as support goes, it was mostly friends and family. There weren’t really many groups of stuff like that for younger woman with breast cancer; although I did attend a few ‘look good feel better’ things (where the women go to try makeup and get free makeup) and I was always the youngest…there wasn’t really much support out there for people my age going through breast cancer.” Since her diagnoses, Sarah also says that she hasn’t really come across anyone else as young as she was – with the youngest usually being in their early 20s.

Although Sarah has undergone a lot over the last few years, she continues to remain positive every step of the way. “Sure, you’ll have your times when you just need to be alone and cry it out. I know it’s hard at times but it sure makes a difference,” she says in regards to having a positive attitude. She continues, “Think positive and live life as if nothing was wrong.”

We are definitely thinking positively on this side of the world and wishing her all the best in her upcoming reconstruction procedure. As we wrap up National Breast Cancer Awareness month and we hear the story of Sarah's fight at such a young age, we are reminded that it's never too early to be aware of your breasts and the dangers of breast cancer.

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