Can you tell us a little bit about yourself? My name is Amanda and I am 40 years old. I have been married to my loving and supportive husband for 18 years. We met the first summer after I graduated high school and have been together since I was 18 years old. We have 2 children together our daughter who is 17 years old and a son who is 7 years old.
How and when did you discover you had breast cancer? My breast cancer journey started when I was 20 years old. I was attending Texas State University to obtain my Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice. One night I was in the shower and did a self-breast exam where I found a lump on my left breast. The doctor removed it and stated I had nothing else to worry about. No follow-ups were ever mentioned I just went on with life. In July of 2015, I started getting ill, began having seizures and it was one thing after another. At age 34, on Valentine’s day in 2016, I was taking a shower did my own self-exam and felt another lump this time on the right breast. I messaged my doctor and they asked me to go in the next day on a Sunday. She ordered a mammogram the next day and I was told an hour later that they had found cancer. A week later I had a biopsy and ultrasound done and they said I had stage 1 Ductal Carcinoma In- Situ (DCIS).
What was the next step for you after diagnosis? I did not allow it to bring me down instead I researched my options and went in with my own treatment options in mind. I saw four doctors who all turned me down. I was asking for a total mastectomy, and they wanted again to only do a lumpectomy on the right breast. After talking with so many women they all stated cancer eventually came back on the other breast and they were hit all over again emotionally, and I did not want to go through that. I was panicking because I did not want to settle, I wanted the treatment I felt was best for me. I had no history of breast cancer in my family and so this was all new to me and my loved ones. I finally made an appointment after researching doctors and when I told her what I had been through and what I wanted she agreed. I told her every doctor had told me that I was too young. She then referred me to a great plastic surgeon who discussed so many options with me and I agreed to a Diep flap reconstruction where they took my belly fat and made new breasts. Because the cancer was too close to my nipple, we decided to remove the whole tissue. In May of 2016 I underwent a bilateral mastectomy and Diep flap reconstruction. It took me 6 months to recuperate.
Was everything o.k after your surgery? I thought everything was behind me. I then began to feel ill again. I was having seizures and was then diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and my gallbladder needed to be removed. In 2018, they found a cysts in my ovaries and the doctors recommended a hysterectomy to avoid cancer as well. In 2019, I was diagnosed with an overactive bladder but a couple of months later, the urologist ordered tests and when doing a routine exam, she found a tumor in my bladder. They removed it and sent it for testing and unfortunately it was cancerous. Later that year I began having pain in my upper right abdomen and they found stage 2 liver fibrosis fatty liver disease (non-alcoholic).
Where has this journey taken you? All this brings me to today. I feel I have not caught a break. I noticed my breast sagging some and one larger than the other. My abdomen scar was getting dark and ugly, so I elected to have a revision. I am currently still recovering and have 2 months more to heal. Throughout these years I have done speaking engagements at middle schools, high schools, workplaces, and my daughter advocates as well for girls to do their own self-breast exams. I stress that it is never early and you are never too young. I think waiting until your 40’s to have a mammogram is ridiculous. Today, many young women are being diagnosed at early ages and it is no longer genetic. The biggest reason I chose to become a social worker is due the many inequities I saw and faced in the healthcare arena. I was given a pamphlet when I was diagnosed, and no one told me next steps or what to do. I advocated for myself every step of the way and still do. Every time I was told I am too young to have this problem or that problem, but I did not choose them they chose me. I saw many women denied options in treatment because of insurance or money. They did not understand or were not in the frame of mind to comprehend it they were in shock. I helped women who had a language barrier or could not understand the lingo because, as a social worker, I strive to advocate for others and that is what I plan on keep on doing. I hope to get my feet in by working in the hospital as a social worker and eventually opening my own practice to help those diagnosed with cancer and their children. I did a paper on the caregiver, specifically the spouse and how they do not know how to help or emotionally deal with how a cancer diagnosis of their spouse affects them and studies showed it was a lot of men wish they had more resources themselves. So, this has been my passion is helping anyone I can. I hope this tells you what I wanted to convey there is so much to say but this is a summary of my battle with breast cancer and what one disease can bring about so many others.