Unexpected diagnosis rocks Mt. Vernon woman’s world
Wigant: ‘I got breast cancer at 25’
Torey Wigant was a typical college student working hard to obtain a master’s degree in occupational health and safety management at University of Central Missouri, never thinking that her world was about to turn upside down.
“I was doing my internship at Altec Industries in St. Joseph, and taking classes,” said Wigant, of St. Joseph, formerly of Mt. Vernon. “I didn’t feel sick. But there was a lump.”
Wigant talked to her mother, Frankie Smith, a mammography technician at Cox Monett Hospital, and Smith urged her to get checked right away.
“I was diagnosed with Stage II invasive ductile carcinoma,” Wigant said. “That was in July of 2016. I was 25 years old.”
Physicians typically recommend women begin getting mammograms between 45 and 54 years of age. Wigant didn’t even meet the statistical criteria for annual mammograms.
“They did a BRCA gene test, and it did not find any mutations,” she said. “It was just a fluke.”
But the diagnosis changed her immediate plans.
“I had to quit the internship and return home,” she said. “The thing about being on my parent’s insurance is that is only covers you to age 26, even if you are still in college. So, in just a few months, I was set to lose that coverage.”
But the company where
she interned stepped in and provided a miracle on her behalf.
“They offered me a job and full benefits immediately, even though I hadn’t finished my degree,” she said. “They went above and beyond. They have been amazing.”
Luckily, Wigant was able to continue taking online classes and finish her degree.
Wigant was diagnosed in July and underwent a double mastectomy in August. At that point, she had about a month to grapple with her treatment plan.
“The doctor recommended chemotherapy, but I asked if I could have intensive hormonal therapy,” she said. “My cancer was one that feeds off estrogen, so basically what they did was put me on medication to shut down my reproductive system. They were starving the cancer cells by eliminating my estrogen production. I had a monthly injection and a small pill, which was a low dose of chemo.
“My mom wanted me to have chemo, my dad supported my decision to have hormone therapy. I think that was hardest on my mom. As a mammographer, she sees this daily. I just know my thought processes were so weird at that time.”
Her parents accompanied her to her doctor’s appointment, where they were told her cancer markers, which are found in blood, urine and body tissue, were “in the middle of the scale.” The type of treatment planned is usually based on where those markers are. When the doctor questioned Wigant about her treatment plan, she froze.
“Luckily, my dad knew what I wanted,” she said. “I was not in a good place, so my dad was my warrior and told them no chemo. I don’t know if I would have been strong enough to tell them no.
“I made my decision based on the fear of chemotherapy. I didn’t think my mental health could withstand that. So, through a combination of listening to my body, a gut feeling, and a lot of soul searching, I opted for the hormone therapy. I had to live with myself, and on a soul-level, not having chemo was best for me.”
That treatment was to last five years, however, life moves on, often in a different direction.
“By then-boyfriend, Caleb, and I had dated off and on for a decade,” she said. “My diagnosis is what catapulted us into marriage. We weren’t on our time, anymore, we were on God’s time.”
The couple wed in 2018.
Fearful that the chemo would result in fertility issues, Wigant went off their treatment regimen in 2018 and almost immediately became pregnant, giving birth to the couple’s daughter, Brenn, on Oct. 7, 2019.
“That was my biggest fear,” Wigant said. “I feel really blessed to have our daughter. It is totally worth going off the treatment plan.”
However, when she returned to the plan, she had to start from ground zero, having shots and taking pills for the next five years.
“Essentially, it puts me into menopause,” she said. “I get the hot flashes and joint pain. Studies have not been completed on women who have stopped taking the medication and then resumed it, like I did. So, we had to start back at square one.”
The worst part about her recovery is a kind of survivor’s guilt.
“Other than the tumor itself, I felt healthy,” she said. “I wanted hormone therapy because I didn’t want to make my body work any harder than necessary. I got to choose my treatment plan, but there are so many women who have no choice in their therapy.”
Her biggest challenge now is staying on the plan for the full five years.
“I am hoping to have more children,” she said. “I am going to have to force myself to stay on the five-year plan instead of being a rebel. I have asked if I can do two years [of treatment] and re-evaluate, to possibly have some kind of normal life. But I don’t know yet.”
Wigant said if she makes it past the first five years, there is only an 8 percent chance the cancer will return, the same averages that all people have.
“Without it, I have a 15 percent chance of it reoccurring,” she said.
For now, Wigant is happily working for the company that so generously provided for her when she was in need, and living life to the fullest.
“I just plan to ride it out and enjoy my little family,” she said.