I was the age of 35 already dealing with multiple sclerosis when I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer (TNBC), an aggressive cancer that affects 13 in 100,000 women each year—with Black women twice as likely to be diagnosed as white women. I discovered that “facing cancer is scary but I knew I was up for a challenge that I was ready to face. I remember feeling the first lump on my breast on the right side. I Ignored it because I had a previous history of having a papilloma on the same side. I looked in the mirror one day and saw that it grew in size and also I had another lump that was smaller right above it and it had a texture. I told my mom “this feels weird” she told me to go get a mammogram.
I saw my pcp and he set up for me to have a mammogram done. I remember being so nervous. I had my Mammogram done and they called me 5 minutes later and said I needed an ultrasound because I have dense breast tissue so they need a better view. At this point I was scared! I knew something was wrong but the radiologist said I needed to find a surgeon and I’m thinking maybe it’s two papillomas.
They called me back a couple days later and said I needed a biopsy and I knew that something must be wrong. After getting all my testing I remember getting a call while at work and speaking with the radiologist. He uttered the words “both tumors have cancer cells” I almost fell to my knees and it felt like the wind was knocked out of me! I had so many questions and feared I’d waited too late to get a mammogram and it could have progressed to stage 4. I had no family history. I saw the surgeon that Tuesday and he read everything and told me I had invasive ductal carcinoma and it was stage 2; grade 3. He told me they were still waiting on the HER 2 test to come back yo determine if I had triple negative breast cancer because both estrogen and progesterone hormone markers were negative. I felt sad because I know what was ahead! Chemotherapy which meant I would loose my hair, surgery which meant I would loose my breast and possibly radiation afterwards. I instantly went into fight mode.
My favorite hashtag that I created was: #BeautifulWithMSAndCancer. I knew if I could conquer MS, I could face this head-on like a champ. It’s crazy to stay positive, but it got me through this journey—and so has keeping my faith up. I went through four rounds of AC and four rounds of taxol. I also had a right breast mastectomy in October of that year. My biggest challenge was getting through radiation. It was honestly harder than chemotherapy. I originally was to receive 30 treatments of radiation but once I found out I had residual cancer in my pectoral wall after surgery, they added more totally 35 treatments. The first couple of weeks were okay, but as the weeks went on, my skin started to burn. It was like a third-degree burn on my neck, chest, and underarm area. It was so horrible and painful. I say it was the most challenging because it was physically, emotionally, and mentally challenging. I was going every day, Monday through Friday, for eight weeks. It mostly took a toll on me mentally, just knowing weekly I was getting burned and was getting worse and worse as the weeks went on. I would lay on that table and encourage myself and tell myself it was for a good cause. I always looked in the mirror and told myself “Girl, you got this.” Even in the worst time of my life I looked at the positive and saw the beauty in it. God always takes you through things for a reason. Cancer taught me so many things but most importantly to know that despite the illness it doesn’t define you. I took my experience and journey and I’m determined to help someone else. I joined tigerlily foundation last year and became an angel advocate. It was the best decision of my life.
Too many women are dying due to breast cancer especially TNBC. My goal and journey is to help someone else in their journey. To let them know despite the illness, loosing hair or breast they are still beautiful. I also want to bring awareness especially to our African American community.Author Bio: My name is paris smith. I am 37 years old and I am a triple negative breast cancer survivor and thrivor. I strive to end disparities within our community. Bring awareness and offer hope by sharing my story to help other women