Rebecca Kitchen was on her way to urgent care when she decided to stop home for a quick shower. While showering she noticed a lump in her breast. Not thinking much of it, she brought it up to the urgent care doctor just in case. He too believed it to be a cyst, or something minor given Rebecca’s young age of 30. To be safe, he sent her for a mammogram and ultrasound, both of which came back inconclusive. Three biopsies later, Rebecca was diagnosed with stage three ductal carcinoma breast cancer. It came as a complete shock: “it was so far outside the realm of possibilities for me. I would never have even thought it was possible.” Indeed, Rebecca had no family history and later genetic testing would reveal she also had no precursors.
Living in Hawaii at the time, she decided to move back to the east coast to be closer to family and friends during treatment. It also meant she had access to Dartmouth Hitchcock Hospital, which not only provided a higher level of care, but also gave Rebecca the opportunity to partake in clinical trials. That bonus, in particular, meant the most to her: “I wanted to feel like I was having an impact on others who came after me. I wanted to be apart of the research.” Even in the midst of a terrifying diagnosis, massive cross country move and impending treatment, Rebecca was thinking about others.
Her positive attitude glows when she talks about the decision to move back home. During her eight rounds of chemotherapy, she had a different family member or friend take her, giving them an opportunity to catch up and reconnect. Throughout the entire chemo treatment, she also partook in a clinical trial that used fiber optics to track progress of chemo. The hope is that eventually doctors will be able to see what treatments are working in real time.
Rebecca would go on to have surgery in February of 2020 and her six weeks of radiation began in the first few weeks of the pandemic. Of that time, she remains realistic: “I could only leave my house to attend radiation. So for me, the only times I went outside was for that treatment. It was torture.” When asked how she stayed so positive during the ups and downs of treatment, she credits her family, friends and her partner for their love and support. She also notes that the first surgeon she met with after diagnosis said, “if you’re going to get cancer, this is the type to get. We have so much research and advancements in the world of breast cancer.” This one comment gave Rebecca hope and a level of gratefulness for her situation: “it could always be worse” she joked.
At the time of The Runway Show 2022, Rebecca will be three years out from diagnosis. While the wild journey that is breast cancer has defined her past three years, Rebecca and her partner managed to sprinkle in a wonderful welcome surprise of a child. Shortly after radiation ended, her doctor gave her the go ahead to start trying for a baby. A month later, Rebecca was pregnant and today she glows when speaking about her 11 month old. It’s a testament to what her original surgeon said, that treatments have come so far that a woman like Rebecca could conceive naturally so close to treatment. Indeed, Rebecca says, “it was the best sort of ‘planned surprise’ we could have asked for.”