Anna Wassman was diagnosed with breast cancer at 25 years old, only two months before she was set to graduate from Loyola University. She found a lump during her regular self-check breast exams, and after further testing, she was told she had stage 2A breast cancer.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer found in women and only 5 percent of cases are in women under 40 years old. While it is recommended that women start monthly self examinations at 20, it is rare for young women to follow this advice as Anna did.
Once Anna received her diagnosis, she was faced with a barrage of questions. What would treatment look like? How was she going to tell her family? How would she finish her studies and graduate on time?
Tenacious and determined, Anna bravely faced what she called her “new normal” and dove in headfirst. With a personal goal of remaining strong, she was adamant that no one should feel sorry for her. After discussing next steps with her doctor, she learned that cancer treatment could impact her ability to have a family. At 25, she hadn’t yet considered starting a family but knew that she at least wanted to have the option of biological children in the future.
With the guidance of Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron, Anna froze her eggs over a two-week process. A LIVESTRONG grant and discounted services provided by Fertility Centers of Illinois for cancer patients reduced the overall cost for Anna. Next, she underwent a mastectomy, then started chemotherapy treatment. It was a whirlwind spring and summer, and despite her diagnosis, she graduated on time, summa cum laude with a 4.0 GPA.
Eight months later, Anna is now cancer-free. In the months since her diagnosis, Anna not only dedicated herself to healing, but also connecting with others who have experienced cancer, particularly young cancer survivors, such as herself. She sits on the board at Gilda’s Club of Chicago and has worked with other nonprofits and events such as Immerman’s Angels and the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk.
Anna’s generosity is what makes her even more of an inspiration to women everywhere. When another young woman reached out on Instagram saying that she felt scared and overwhelmed by her new cancer diagnosis and the fertility preservation process, Anna offered to join her at her doctor’s appointment. They met in the lobby of our River North location and Anna stayed for the entire appointment and talked about the process with her for two hours afterward.
Anna’s inspirational story has grabbed the attention of many – she has been interviewed by People Magazine, TODAY Online, and visited the local Chicago studios of WCIU-TV to discuss her experiences alongside Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron and the team at The Jam.
Anna, we are truly inspired by your courage and kindness!