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Idaho officer's bulletproof vest helps her discover breast cancer

Bulletproof vest & breast cancer
Posted at 5:50 PM, Jun 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-21 22:51:38-04

MERIDIAN, Idaho (KIVI) -- In the United States, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, breast cancer is the most common cancer in American women, except for skin cancers. It's estimated that in 2021, approximately 30% of all new cancer diagnoses in women will be breast cancer.

Breast Cancer stats

In Idaho, Meridian Police Officer Erin Bustos was diagnosed with Stage 2 Grade 3 invasive ductal carcinoma on March 5, 2021, shortly before her 30th birthday. That diagnosis came after Bustos sought answers for the consistent pain in her right breast while wearing her department-issued bulletproof vest.

Her diagnosis, already unexpected, was even more shocking considering Bustos is an otherwise healthy young adult with no previous history of breast cancer in her family.

"My world flipped upside down, like, every bit of strength I thought that I had while I was laying on that table was gone," she said.

Luckily, early detection kept her aggressive cancer from spreading further.

Before embarking on a series of chemotherapy treatments, Bustos was given more life-changing news. If she wished to start a family of her own, she would need to be cleared and start in-vitro fertilization immediately.

"I started IVF after the day after I met with my surgeon for the first time. The day after. I know chemo kills a lot of things, but I did not know that it kills your eggs," said Bustos.

By the end of her cycle, she and her husband had a record amount of embryos at their fertility clinic, writing in a Facebook post they had 33 viable embryos out of 48 eggs.

Post-IVF retrieval

In a seemingly tough time, Bustos tells KIVI if there were a blessing that came out of this diagnosis, it was meeting with a genetic counselor following her retrieval.

She learned she carries a mutation in the CHEK2 gene which can increase the risk of developing breast and colon cancers.

"Finding out that news was actually super helpful because we had the opportunity to test for embryos," Bustos said.

Despite the changes and the pain that's come with her diagnosis, Bustos hopes her story will motivate other young women to get checked regularly.

"I was not blessed to be put in the situation. Nobody wants cancer, but if I can do something positive with it, why wouldn't I. You know, I have a platform, I have a voice, I have a story, and as painful as my story is to me, still they can still help make somebody else's story a little bit easier later," she said.

As Bustos continues to share her story, the community is rallying around her offering support where they can.

Meridian Police are selling limited edition pink patches for $10 each with funds going towards her medical costs. The Treasure Valley Lodge is also holding a "Rifle Raffle" with those funds also supporting Bustos during her five-year treatment plan.

Any money left over will be donated to breast cancer research in an effort to find a cure.

Meridian Police Department "Pink Patches"

This story originally reported by Frankie Katafias on KIVITV.com