It’s not surprising to learn that a bulletproof vest saved an officer’s life, but, in this case, the way this particular vest saved this particular officer is something worth taking note of.
Erin Bustos, a police officer in Meridian, Idaho, first noticed something was amiss while wearing a department-issued bulletproof vest. She was constantly having pain in the right side of her chest and armpit while wearing it, so she decided to go and get checked out.
Erin underwent an ultrasound, a mammogram, and biopsies in an attempt to figure out what was going on in her breast. That’s when she got the shocking news, shortly before her 30th birthday, that she had an aggressive form of stage II grade III invasive ductal carcinoma in situ.
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Erin has no family history of breast cancer, and she was young and healthy, so the news came as quite a shock.
“My world has turned over. It’s as if I’ve lost all the power I thought I had while lying at the table,” says Erin.
The breast cancer had already spread from Erin’s breast to her lymph nodes. She would need chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and possible radiation in order to ensure the cancer was completely gone. Fortunately, though, it was detected before it spread even further, thanks to Erin’s bulletproof vest.
Before starting chemotherapy, Erin had her eggs harvested for IVF so that she’d be able to have children with her husband after treatment.
“I started IVF the day after I first met the surgeon. The next day. I knew that chemotherapy killed a lot, but I didn’t know it would kill your eggs,” says Erin.
Erin also went through genetic testing to help her make decisions regarding her cancer treatment and future screening. She learned that she has the CHEK2 gene mutation, which increases her risk of developing breast and colon cancers.
“I had the opportunity to test the embryos, so finding the news was actually very helpful,” says Erin.
Luckily, Erin has had the support of her friends, family, and community throughout the journey. The Meridian Police Department even issued limited edition pink patches, selling for $10 each, to help raise money for Erin’s medical expenses. Any funds raised above and beyond her medical needs will be donated to breast cancer research.
As she continues to go through cancer treatment, Erin hopes she can encourage other young women to do regular self-checks.
“I wasn’t fortunate to be in this situation. Nobody wants cancer, but if that can do something positive, why not?” says Erin. “I have a platform, there’s a voice, there’s a story, and as much as my story is painful to me, it can still help make someone else’s story a little easier later.”