Katlyn R Faces of Breast Cancer: Katlyn Ryan

I was 34, I didn’t think anything bad could happen to a 34 year old.

In September 2019, Katlyn Ryan unexpectedly felt a lump on her chest while getting dressed. Without any family history of breast cancer, Katlyn was diagnosed with HER 2+ breast cancer at age 34. By December 2020, Katlyn completed 16 rounds of chemotherapy, 25 rounds of radiation, 2 mastectomies and 18 targeted therapies with her team of medical, surgical and radiation oncologists at The Cancer Center at Saint Barnabas Medical Center and her family and friends by her side.

It took time for the reality of having cancer to set in. Katlyn didn’t feel sick, she felt like the same person she was the day before she was diagnosed. It was not until her hair started falling out that she truly internalized the severity of her diagnosis. “I didn’t realize how much that would affect me, not necessarily the surgeries, but gaining 40 pounds from the steroids and losing my long [straight] hair during chemo only to have it grow back curly,” says Katlyn. “I look at photos of myself during chemo and I don’t even recognize that person.”

Throughout this journey, Katlyn has found comfort in talking about her struggles to a therapist, family and friends. She has learned to reprioritize her life and reflect back on the things that made her the happiest pre-cancer and makes time to create new happy memories moving forward. Lastly, Katlyn is an advocate for herself and her family to stay on top of their annual preventative care appointments.

“I was 34, I didn’t think anything bad could happen to a 34 year old,” Katlyn explains. “My cancer got to a place where I needed all those treatments, but maybe if I caught it earlier it wouldn’t have been so severe.”