Kristine Schwenck

I had always considered myself to be in excellent health. I ate healthy, exercised 4-5 times a week, rarely drank, didn’t smoke, and almost never got sick. That all changed one day when I noticed a hard pea sized lump on the side of my left breast while in the shower. I definitely had never noticed it before so I decided to see if the lump was still there two weeks later. Not only was it still there after two weeks, but it had gotten much bigger. The lump was also painful when I pressed on it. I asked my boyfriend to feel the lump to make sure that I wasn’t imagining it. Given that it had gone from a pea sized lump to a walnut sized lump in two weeks’ time, we agreed that I should go to the doctor.

The first doctor I saw told me that the lump was probably related to my menstrual cycle and I could come back if it was still there a few weeks later. I didn’t like this answer, and I felt she didn’t have a good reason as to why it had grown so rapidly in just a matter of weeks. I decided to trust my gut and get another opinion and I saw another doctor the following week. This time I had my boyfriend come with me for support. We went into the appointment pressing to get some kind of imaging or testing done–I knew that seeing what was happening on the inside would help me get a proper diagnosis quickly. The second doctor felt the lump and didn’t seem too concerned because I was so young. However, because we insisted on getting more tests, she referred us to a breast specialist.

“Push for real answers—don’t accept statements like ‘you are too young’ as an adequate answer to your health changes.”

A few days later I had my appointment with the breast specialist. After feeling the lump and getting my family history she told me that she was 99% certain what I had was a non-cancerous growth called a fibroadenoma; however, she wanted to confirm this with an ultrasound. At the ultrasound appointment, two lymph nodes lit up as cancerous as well as a relatively large tumor (3cm x 2cm). A day later I was officially diagnosed with breast cancer and two weeks after being diagnosed I started my first round of chemotherapy.

The advice that I would give anyone reading my story is to make your health a priority, no matter how busy you are. Push for real answers—don’t accept statements like “you are too young” as an adequate answer to your health changes. Demand hard evidence! If you feel like it will help, bring someone with you who will support you in advocating for your health. I’ve also learned the importance of not being afraid to be wrong. At first, I was worried that I was going to seem like a hypochondriac and that I was making something bigger than it should be, but I now know that my concerns were valid.


  • no early symptoms; noticed a pea-sized, hard lump during breast self-exam
  • lump grew from pea-sized lump to walnut-sized lump in two weeks