In our October issue, three local young women courageously shared their breast cancer survival stories. Their experiences show that this can happen to anyone. Not only is it important to get your clinical breast exam each year, but it is also important to talk to your doctor (and maybe get a second opinion) if something is off.
Our second story is from Decca Knight. In her words:
I was diagnosed at the age of 32. At the time, I was a healthy, active, young mother who ate well and loved running. My son was 1 ½ years old and I was working at a part-time job that I loved. My OBGYN found a mass during a routine clinical breast exam. He thought that it was probably a cyst and said I could wait a few months and come back or get an ultrasound. Luckily, I chose the ultrasound.
It looked suspect so they sent me for my first mammogram and then a biopsy. I can remember my next appointment like it was yesterday. It was there that my breast surgeon told my husband and I that the mass was cancer. We heard that it was aggressive and that the tumor was large.
We went into shock. A stream of doctors appointments with the breast surgeon, medical oncologist, radiation oncologist, and reconstructive surgeon followed. We felt like we were at the hospital all the time. Soon I had a bilateral mastectomy and the insertion of expanders. The latter are slowly pumped up to stretch your skin to allow for implants. During this operation they did a biopsy of my lymph nodes on the infected side and found that the cancer had spread there. This meant that I would have to have radiation.
After sometime to heal, I started my chemotherapy regimen— every three weeks for six rounds. Soon after my first round, my hair started falling out so my husband shaved my head. My sweet little son thought that it was silly. I am so thankful that at that time he was too young to understand what was going on.
Following months of grueling chemo, we went head on into radiation— everyday for six weeks. I kept joking with hospital staff that I should have some type of frequent flyer card that accrued points. After healing from radiation, I had another surgery called a Lat Flap surgery. During this procedure, they take a part of your lattisimus dorsi on your back, cut it out along with the skin, nerves, and blood supply, and transplant it to your chest. This would allow my affected side to hold an implant. After healing from this harrowing surgery, I finally had my last surgery where they took out my expanders and put in my implants. The whole process lasted about one year.
I was lucky that I didn’t have to work while in treatment. I needed all my energy to be able to interact with my young son. My husband, sister, parents, and in-laws took such great care of me. My friends were amazing. They raised about $15,000.00 for the first Virginia Blue Ridge Affiliate Race for the Cure here in Roanoke.
Five years out now, I am doing well. I still take medication that will hopefully keep the cancer from returning.