Alyssa Dyal was fooling around with a guy she'd met on a dating app when everything changed.
It was summer 2018, she was 23, studying film in Boston, and was enjoying feeling confident and care-free after an adolescence dealing with bullies and grappling with her faith growing up in New York.
But one night, lying on her bed, the guy she'd been seeing for a couple of months pulled away from her in shock.
He'd felt a lump in her breast, and couldn't shake his concern for her that it could mean something sinister.
'I was surprised,' Dyal told DailyMail.com, who had felt the lump a couple of months earlier, but dismissed it. Her mother and sister, a year younger, had both been checked for lumps in the past five years, and both turned out to be benign.
'I was just like, "ok, ok, I'll get it checked out" - a bit dismissive. I was determined to treat it as if it's not serious.'
But Dyal's case turned out different.
Alyssa Dyal, diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in February, said her friends have been a powerful support system for her
Dyal was 23 and studying film in Boston when she felt a lump in her breast, and her ex-boyfriend encouraged her not to dismiss it
Dyal had a mastectomy, and now takes estrogen blockers (her tumor is estrogen-positive, feeding off the hormone), triggering menopause
After a series of tests, an ultrasound, and a biopsy, Dyal's doctor called her the Monday before Thanksgiving (as Dyal had requested, to tell her the news without having to wait for an appointment).
'She told me, "you do have breast cancer". I stopped hearing after that.'
It would take three more months of tests, scans, and changing treatment plans before they could confirm: Dyal had stage 4 metastatic breast cancer, which may be kept under control with medication, but is incurable.
In some ways, each