Health and Well-being An amazing journey
Sharing her own words
A positive diagnosis derailed the plans Anna Wassman (BBA ’18) had for her final semester and career after graduation. But, she's determined to share her story and experience with others facing the same journey.
When you are diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 25, the first thing people say is “How? You’re so young.”
Yes, with no family history present, no genetic pre-disposition, and a strongly hormone-driven cancer, I still find myself asking “how” somedays too.
But what I’ve learned through my cancer journey is that I may never know how, why, or even “Why me at this time in my life?” I have come to realize is that it is OK not having all the answers. Instead it is about finding what keeps you going after the setback.
Two months before graduating from Loyola University Chicago, I was performing a routine self-breast exam when I found a lump in my right breast. Given my age and lack of family history, my doctor tried to reassure me that this was likely nothing. An ultrasound, biopsy, and two weeks later, it turned out it was breast cancer.
I was diagnosed on March 1, 2018, the first day of my last spring break. I spent the whole next week in and out of the hospital. After countless tests, poking, prodding, and hours in the waiting room, my team at Rush University Medical Center and I came up with a plan of action to treat my cancer.
I remember feeling like my world was collapsing around me. The news left me devastated and afraid of what was to come. I was so stressed. To be honest at this point, it wasn’t even just about my breast cancer diagnosis—I was truly worried about graduating on time. I was on track to finish strong with high honors and had already accepted a job offer from the fall career fair.
By Wednesday of spring break, I had e-mailed all of my professors and Susan Ries, the business school’s assistant dean, asking if I could meet with each of them individually when we returned. I wanted to be fully transparent with everyone since I knew I would be in and out of classes for the remainder of the school year. Letting my Loyola professors know what was going on was not something I had to do, but it was what I wanted to do.
With each Loyola faculty member I told, I felt more and more supported. They each reassured me that everything would be OK here in the classroom and that I really needed to focus on my health and the outside battle I was fighting.
Then just like that, I missed about two weeks of school to start my treatment two months before graduation. It was a difficult experience, but knowing I was so supported by everyone at Loyola and by my friends and family helped me keep a positive outlook on the upcoming months.
As graduation came and went, I managed to graduate Summa Cum Laude, keep my 4.0 GPA, and receive the honor of the Dean’s Key. To this day, I still can’t believe that I achieved everything I wanted to and more. Being able to achieve and surpass my academic goals helped me stay strong. It helped me realize that if I could graduate in the face of adversity, then I could keep going through the cancer treatment ahead of me and be OK.