Navigating the Mountain in Front of Me

In 2018, YSC teamed up with fashion designer Kelly Faetanini to gift 2 young breast cancer survivors the wedding dresses of their dreams. Christina Chuo and her partner are getting married in July 2019. She shares her breast cancer story and how being her own best advocate helped her navigate treatment.


Christina Chuo Before LumpectomyGrowing up playing competitive sports, the importance of staying in sync with my body was ingrained in me from an early age. In my adulthood, this translated into staying ahead of my health as best I could. If I found a funny looking mole, I’d ask my dermatologist to remove it on the spot. If I had a lymph node that felt abnormally large, I marched to the doctor. I was the friend who predictably ordered salad at dinner, and was late to happy hour because she needed to squeeze in a work out after work.

I never expected to get a call confirming I had ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) at 33 years old.

The Day I Was Diagnosed with DCIS

In February of 2018, I was lying in bed giving myself a monthly breast check when I noticed something rubbery that I’d never felt before. I thought it was a temporary symptom of my menses. So I made a mental note to mention it to my gynecologist at my appointment the following month. Little did I know, that mental note would turn into an order for a mammogram and ultrasound, followed by a biopsy, discovery of atypical ductal hyperplasia (ADH) via lumpectomy, and ultimately my DCIS diagnosis.

I was at work when I got the call. My breast surgeon broke the news and set up an appointment to discuss my options the following week. After I got off the phone, I didn’t know what to do but to call my parents and brother. They were aware of the tests I’d been undergoing, but nobody had expected anything to amount to a breast cancer diagnosis. I remember their brief shock, followed by calm and support. When they immediately made arrangements to make a trip to New York so they could be with me for the slew of appointments that lay ahead, I felt (ironically) like the luckiest person in the world.

Christina Chuo and Family

Difficult Decisions About Breast Cancer Treatment

For me, the most difficult time was between diagnosis and decision of treatment. Because I had DCIS, I was fortunate enough to have treatment options—but each came with its own pros and cons. Should I pick radiation and hormone therapy? Or a unilateral mastectomy and hormone therapy? Or, a more aggressive bilateral mastectomy but no additional treatment?

Each option would affect the rest of my life in a very different way. I had to choose the one with the physical and emotional outcomes that would bring me the most peace of mind.

My brother, who’s a Doctor of Internal Medicine, helped me navigate resources that would guide me. I wasn’t going to cross the finish line unscathed. But it was in my power to come out on the other side knowing I made the right choice for myself. In addition to studying pages of notes from doctor appointments and hours of research with my family and boyfriend, social networks were also invaluable sources of clinical and emotional support.

Christina Chuo Treatment Questions and Notes

The forums on breastcancer.org were great for questions about symptoms and future recovery. YSC was incredible for understanding physical and emotional outcomes from other young women who went through my treatment options. I wanted real talk, and the women on these channels offer the honesty and transparency needed for anyone on a breast cancer journey.

Empowering Myself for the Unknown

The more I became an advocate for myself, the more empowered I began to feel in an otherwise uncontrollable situation. Couple that with amazing family and friends (both tangible and virtual), supportive managers and coworkers. I felt ready for what was to come.

Ultimately, I decided the third aforementioned treatment plan was right for me. It was somewhat of a relief, and things happened quickly after that. I had my mastectomy and breast reconstruction surgery on May 24, 2018, and was sent home after one night in the hospital. The first two weeks of recovery were tough. But having a wonderful mom who helped me milk my drains, open pill bottles, and cook favorite foods, made it a lot more bearable. Family and friends who send treats and tell you nice things are just the best when you have bulbs hanging out of your body. 🙂

Christina Chuo after Surgery

It’s hard to believe a full year has passed since I was diagnosed. Last April, I couldn’t see beyond the mountain in front of me, and today I’m back to running on the same treadmill I was a year ago—albeit with a sense of renewed appreciation and ownership of my life. Aside from some new shirts in my closet and becoming a back sleeper, life feels like a refitted version of “normal.” I’m at peace knowing I tackled that mountain armed with everything I could. And I’m forever thankful to the amazing people who surrounded me to conquer it.

Christina Chuo and Family after Surgery


Christina Chuo In 2018, YSC teamed up with fashion designer Kelly Faetanini to gift 2 young breast cancer survivors the wedding dresses of their dreams. Christina Chuo and her partner are getting married in July 2019. She shares her breast cancer story and how being her own best advocate helped her navigate treatment.

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