NORFOLK, Va (WAVY)– You might call Maggie Thomas a “Super Mom.” The wife of Norfolk Vice-Mayor Martin Thomas, she is a pro at organizing events and taxiing their teenage boys, but life is never as perfect as a picture.
“My husband found it — he’s like, ‘that’s not right we should get it checked out,'” she told WAVY.
Maggie is one of a growing number of women under the age of 50 diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Our practice currently has over 200 women that are age 40 or under who have breast cancer,” said Dr. Nina Balanchivadze who practices with Virginia Oncology Associates. It is a large practice with several locations in Hampton Roads.
“Nobody really knows why there’s a rise. It could be lifestyle factors, it could be women are having children at a later age, or obesity which can be linked to the development of cancer, less exercise,” Dr. Balanchivadze told 10 On Your Side.
She told us that cancers in younger women are usually diagnosed later and are more aggressive. Patients also encounter more psychosocial issues.
Maggie recalls the initial shock. “It was like I said, so fast that all I could think of was are my kids ok? Is my house ready for me to be laid up for four months?”
Maggie had a double mastectomy in November and reconstructive surgery in February.
“There have definitely been people who have said ‘Oh, gosh I’m so glad it’s over.’Well, it’s certainly not over. I mean, I have these things that I’m not used to still. I’m having spasms all the time, my muscles are not happy my bones are not happy,” she said.
Many women struggle with sexuality after surgery. Some have fertility concerns after treatment with chemotherapy or radiation and then, Dr. Balanchivadze says, there’s the financial toxicity and emotional stress.
“Some women, they don’t have anybody to leave their children with when they come for treatment or when they’re sick.”
Maggie is making strides with her mental and physical health and encouraging others to fight for their own health with annual mammograms and months of self breast exams. “I’m glad for early detection because they found it early and we were able to get in there and get it out.”
If you feel any bumps, have breast pain or nipple discharge, doctors recommend you get checked out right away.
If you are diagnosed, they recommend you work with a nurse navigator who can help you find health care and other resources to treat your physical, mental and spiritual self.