Chances are we’ve all done it once or twice before, accidentally dropped something down our shirt. Typically when it happens you barely give it a thought, or maybe chuckle about the awkwardness or your clumsiness, and then you go about your day. But for Leslie Almiron there was nothing funny about what she discovered when she accidentally dropped the pendant from a necklace down her shirt.
Almiron, now 24, recently told PEOPLE that when she retrieved it “she felt her hand brush up against something.” Initially she didn’t pay much attention, but it bothered her enough that while in the shower she investigated the lump further.
According to the CDC only about 11% of new cases of breast cancer occur in women under the age of 45, but despite the statistics being on her side, the 22-year-old was still worried. She called her mother and her doctor and neither were too concerned—however, her doctor did give her an ultrasound just to make sure.
After accidentally dropping something down her shirt Almiron discovered a lump on her chest.
She eventually had a biopsy on the lump, and although she wouldn’t know the results for a few days, she could tell by the look of the physician assistant’s face.
“I spent the whole weekend borderline freaking out, and then thinking there was just no way that this could happen,” she told PEOPLE.
The following week she received a call. She had cancer and it was stage 3.
At first neither her mother nor doctor were concerned, until a biopsy was performed.
Unbeknownst to her at the time, Almiron’s life change the moment her necklace dropped down her shirt.
Almost immediately the 22-year-old received treatment—including chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy.
While breast cancer and its treatments affects everyone differently, it can be especially hard on younger woman. For Almiron she was faced with a number of decisions that could impact her future. She was advised to plan ahead if she wanted to have children in the future.
“I’m just freaking out,” Almiron told PEOPLE. “I’m thinking ‘I have cancer, I’m not going to live to have children. Why do you want me to do this?'”
At just 22 years old Almiron was told she had stage 3 cancer and she needed to decide if she ever wanted to have children.
Although Almiron had been with her boyfriend for four years, she said that they hadn’t discussed having children. After all, they had only recently graduated college and were both looking to start their careers. But Almiron had to call her boyfriend and ask if he thought they’d ever have kids together.
“I had to call him and say, ‘Hey, I have to freeze my eggs. Do you think you’re going to love me forever? Should we do embryos?'” she said to PEOPLE. ‘That’s just a conversation I don’t need to be having at 22.”
And as if going through the treatments weren’t enough, Almiron also faced other challenges as a young cancer patient.
The recent college graduate looked into support groups while she fought cancer, but she had trouble finding a good fit. She eventually felt most comfortable with the group Stupid Cancer, since she was able to connect with other young cancer patients and survivors.
But Almiron’s biggest challenge was she had to work throughout her cancer treatment, because without her job she had no health insurance. Almiron, who is a DACA recipient, told PEOPLE she only took time off while she recovered from her double mastectomy.
“I couldn’t afford to get kicked off my insurance,” she said. “It was like, ‘Tough luck, you have to deal with it.’ And that was my attitude. I have to go to work bald, sweating and in pain. It sucks.”
Despite the difficulties she faced as a young cancer patient, Almiron’s attitude remained positive.
“The finish line will move, and it’s going to change, and it’s not going to be over when you think it’s over, or when you want it to be over, but there is an end,” Almiron said. “It’s coming. Just hang in there.”