Maryland Woman discovers she has breast cancer while breastfeeding

FOREST HILL, Md. (WMAR) - A woman in Maryland is crediting her son and sister for the early detection of her breast cancer. 

Back in May, Megan Crunkleton, 33, was weaning her son from breastfeeding when she felt a lump on her breast. 

"I had never done any of those self-exams, the monthly recommended exams because I have very dense tissue and I would think I was finding something," said Crunkleton. 

Nobody in her family had a history of breast cancer until her sister was diagnosed back in January of 2016. Her sister became her inspiration to get the lump checked out. 

In June, Crunkleton was diagnosed with stage two, triple negative breast cancer. In triple negative breast cancer, the three most common types of receptors known to fuel breast cancer growth – estrogen, progesterone, and the HER-2/neu gene – are not present in the tumor.

"It was a relief when pathology results came back and said it was stage two because I remember my breast surgeon looking me right in the eye at that first appointment," Crunkleton said. "It is a scary appointment when you are getting all that information thrown at you, it is like a tornado of information. But she looks me right in the eye and said this is stage two and this is curable."

This type of cancer is aggressive but responds well to chemotherapy. 

"It is still terrifying to have breast cancer, no matter what stage it is."

Though she tries to keep a positive outlook on her situation, Crunkleton credits her family and the staff at MedStar Cancer Center in Bel Air for helping her. 

"You don't want to be there, but I am happy that I am at the MedStar facility if that makes sense," Crunkleton said. "They are coming at it with guns blazing. You know very aggressive treatment just to knock this out."

Her doctor, Dr. Fernandez, says she enjoys working with Crunkleton as well,

"Getting a breast cancer diagnosis is devastating news, and sometimes it is hard to move forward with treatment. In Megan's case, of course, it was devastating news but she did not hesitate to move forward with the recommended treatment and maintain a positive attitude."

Something that Dr. Fernandez says is not that common.

"Especially in young woman, it is so surprising to get a diagnosis and I am amazed at Megan for staying so positive through a treatment that can be so hard to handle," said Dr. Fernandez. 

Crunkleton and her husband moved to the Forest Hill area back in November of 2016. 

"I remember driving on Plum Tree and seeing the MedStar Cancer Center and we were like oh that is a new building, that is a nice building. Never in a million years thought I would be going there."

Crunkleton started her chemotherapy in June and is doing a 20-week program before getting a bilateral mastectomy in 2018. 

"The tumor is responding well to the chemo so far, and I feel that positivity helps you heal and helps you fight this."

She says she credits her positivity to her sister, 

"I think seeing my sister go through this and seeing her go through it with such grace and strength is one of the biggest reasons I am so positive."

Crunkleton says if she had to give advice about going through cancer she would say to trust your gut and lean on those closest to help you through the harder days. 

"You let yourself feel. And then you pick up the pieces and move forward."

Dr. Fernandez says to use Megan's story as an example to always get checked if you feel something that does not feel right. 

"If you feel something abnormal in your breast don't throw your head in the sand. Go to a doctor and get evaluated. Most times it is not breast cancer, but the earlier you can diagnose it, the better chance we have to beat it." 

Though Crunkleton still has a long way to go in her treatment, she says that her cancer does not define her. Her catchphrase is that she is 'knocking it out' with her cancer treatment. 

Nobody wants to hear that they have cancer, but Crunkleton said it has been life-changing in a positive way,

"It is the best thing that could happen to you because you can have this moment to really appreciate life and not take it for granted and feel the love that people have for you. But then it is the worst thing because it is cancer and it sucks."

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