For the past six months, Bianca Innes has been fighting for her life. Diagnosed with breast cancer in April 2017 at age 20, the aspiring journalist has since undergone 12 chemotherapy sessions, two surgeries, and been admitted to the hospital 10 times — all while suffering from constant fatigue and bone pain.
What started out as a “small lump” on the right side of her breast tripled in size within weeks. Before Innes’s 21st birthday, doctors told her she had Grade 3 breast cancer — an extremely rare diagnosis for a woman her age.
“After many tests I was diagnosed with Grade 3 Stage 2b Triple Positive breast cancer,” Innes, who hails from Australia, told the Australian site Mamamia.
Innes had no family history of cancer, and testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 breast cancer gene came back negative.
“My diagnosis came as a huge shock to not only me, but my family and friends too,” she said. “The first question I asked was, ‘Will I lose my hair?’ At that time, it was the most important thought in my mind.”
Earlier this week, Innes shared a touching Instagram post with two images taken just 12 months apart. In the first photo, she appears healthy, with thick dark hair framing her face. The second image shows how cancer and chemo have ravaged her body.
“HAVING A MASSIVE WTF MOMENT THIS SATURDAY MORNING! These photos were taken 12 months apart almost to the day. On the left, a healthy, happy and normal 20 year old girl. On the right, a 21 year old girl fighting a battle she thought she’d never be faced with. Breast Cancer,” she captioned the image.
The average age of diagnosis of breast cancer for women in the U.S. is 62 — fewer than five percent of women diagnosed with it are younger than 40. In Canada, about 11 percent of women develop breast cancer by the time they reach 90 years old, while 20 percent of cases are diagnosed in women younger than 50. In the U.K., 81 percent of breast cancers occur in women older than 50, while 75 percent of new breast cancer cases develop in women older than 50 in Australia.
Innes’s case is an anomaly. Her doctors say she’s one of the youngest patients they have seen who have no family history of cancer.
“This is a stark reminder that cancer does not discriminate,” Innes warned. “It doesn’t give a f**k about your age nor your financial status. My entire journey I’ve tried to stay positive and show the raw realities of cancer at this age through my blog by spreading awareness to young women far and wide.”
Innes will undergo the next phase of her treatment in December. Until then, she’s building up her physical and emotional strength.
“I take the good and bad days for what they are. I am proud to say that although I have breast cancer, I am happy, living life to the fullest and positive about the future,” she said.
“I can thankfully say that I am looking forward to being another step closer to being cancer-free.”
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