Over two years ago, Abigail Valletta, of North Carolina, discovered a lump in her breast while in the shower. Valletta, 32, was 14 weeks pregnant at the time and conducting a routine self-check exam while in the shower, according to WRAL.
Her doctors reportedly believed the lump was due to pregnancy-related changes, but Valletta wanted more reassurance, according to the report.
“Because of my age and because I was pregnant, that’s what we all wanted to believe,” Valletta told the news outlet. “I asked for an ultrasound just to reassure myself.”
The result was invasive ductal triple-negative breast cancer, and testing reportedly showed it stemmed from a BRCA-1 mutation. While all women have BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, about 1 in 500 women in the U.S. have mutations, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Per the CDC, “about 50 out of 100 women with a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation” will go on to develop breast cancer by the time they turn 70 compared to only about 7 out of 100 women in the general U.S. population.
“We knew that my grandparents had a history of breast cancer, but we didn’t know about the gene mutation,” Valletta told the news outlet.
The rapidly growing tumor was detected during stage 2, and Valletta soon underwent chemotherapy and double mastectomy — all while pregnant, and her baby, Madelyn, was later born healthy.
“She was born full-term at 37 weeks. She had more hair than I had when she was born,” Valletta told WRAL.
She reportedly looked to a Facebook page called Triangle Milk Share for donated breast milk, which undergoes a safety check through WakeMed’s Milk Bank.
“They fed Madelyn for 15 months when I was not able to. My other two children (now 10 and 12) were breastfed, and that was something that was very important to me,” Valletta told the news outlet.
Valletta is sharing her story during Breast Cancer Awareness month and in a bid to encourage all women to do routine self-checks for lumps or changes in their breast.