Breast Cancer: Be Your Own Advocate

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Melissa Estevez
  • 477th Fighter Group Public Affairs

Major Taylor Hoskins, 477th Force Support Squadron Operations Officer, was strangely calm when she received a call from the radiologist with the results of her recent breast MRI and biopsy. She was 29 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018.

“I was prepared, but I was not ready,” said Hoskins. “I figured it would happen one day – I never thought it would be before I even turned 30 or before I had kids.”

After receiving her diagnosis, Hoskins had a better understanding of what her mother went through and how she must have felt as a young mom of three children. She leaned a lot on her mother for support and advice when diagnosed.

“I was 11 when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Hoskins. “I don’t think I processed it being that young at the time.”

Hoskins was 17 when her mother was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Her maternal grandmother was also diagnosed with and died from breast cancer at age 47.

Hoskins’ mother had genetic testing after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation, which carries with it an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancers.

“I elected to have the genetic testing when I turned 22, and it was positive – I inherited the BRCA1 gene mutation,” said Hoskins. “From there, I decided to be as proactive as I possibly could and began getting routine scans every six months.”

Hoskins said she felt like one of the lucky ones because her cancer was treated with surgery. She said her journey with breast cancer was more of an emotional experience. “Unless you have had it, you don’t understand the amount of emotions that you go through,” said Hoskins. “I didn’t expect the daily rollercoaster that would come from it.”

Hoskins waited for a month after her diagnosis to get into surgery. There were times when she felt like she was losing control of her life.

“I have this thing in my body, and I just want it out and I couldn’t control it,” said Hoskins. “I couldn’t control the surgery schedule. I couldn’t get in next week. I couldn’t control that I had it. I couldn’t control what the treatment plan would be.”

When diagnosed, Hoskins was assigned to the 111th Attack Wing at Biddle Air National Guard Base, Pennsylvania. Hoskins said the Airmen wrapped around her like family.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States, exceeded only by heart disease. One of every four deaths in the United States is due to cancer.

Hoskins’ mother taught her to advocate for herself, especially when it comes to mammograms. Her mother attempted to get screened many times but was repeatedly told that she was “too young” and that it was “unnecessary.”

Her mother did not receive her first mammogram until her early thirties after she had switched doctors and kept pressing for a screening. During her very first mammogram, they discovered a lime-sized tumor, and she received a breast cancer diagnosis.

Several organizations recommend different timelines regarding the age for mammograms. Most recommend screening at age 50.

The American Cancer Society states women aged 40 to 44 years should have the choice to start breast cancer screening once a year with mammography if they wish to do so.

According to the TRICARE website, TRICARE covers annual mammograms for women aged 40 or older. Also, for women aged 30 and older who have a 15 percent or greater lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.

Hoskins plans on educating her children about symptoms, risk factors, including the genetic mutation, and screenings for breast cancer.

“Be aware, know your family history, know yourself and be your own advocate,” said Hoskins.