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The 19-year-old Wisconsin native, who appeared physically healthy in photographs, talked about her daily struggles with balancing lymphoma treatments and college classes (she wanted to become a psychologist), and the two talked companionably about their favorite TV show, can't get pregnant while on chemo...' but I admitted that I didn't know her treatment and couldn't know what she was going through," Valerie says."I did think that chemo would be really, really bad for a fetus.And when Valerie called her boyfriend over to cop a feel, he couldn't detect the lump.Neither could the nurse practitioner who examined her later that afternoon. It was an ultrasound that finally confirmed what Valerie had felt: a pebble-sized mass that turned out to be stage 2A, HER2 invasive ductal carcinoma—in layman's terms, a rare, aggressive form of breast cancer that is notoriously difficult to treat.The mass was so small, her doctor said it was a miracle she'd detected it at all.Then, "when he saw my lymph node, everything changed in the room," Valerie remembers. "He said, 'You have breast cancer, it's extremely aggressive, and you have an MRI scheduled for 4 p.m. Be there.'" The following week was a blur of bone scans, blood tests, PET scans, and other tests and terminology that are all but indecipherable for those who aren't profoundly sick or working in medicine."I didn't have an immediate support system beyond my boyfriend and my cats," she says.
Instead, Beth messaged her again, intimating that she'd gotten pregnant after being raped by her uncle.But Valerie didn't confront Beth with suspicions that she was faking her sickness.Instead, to preserve her own health and sanity, she abruptly stopped answering Beth's e-mails, texts, and phone calls."I immediately sent her my phone number and personal e-mail address and urged her to call me," Valerie says.Beth called within minutes, and the two had their first phone conversation, during which Beth haltingly explained that her uncle had abused both her and her 6-year-old cousin (his daughter).