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Receiving a doctorate with a side of breast cancer!

Morgan Mitchell

In July 2020, I happened to brush across a large mass in my breast as I was getting ready for bed. I apathetically shrugged it off. But, the following day, I just happened to feel the mass again. I went into my mom's bedroom and had her feel it. She confirmed that she could feel something too and told me to immediately make an appointment with my Ob/Gyn. Less than 2 weeks later, I was sitting in my Ob/Gyn's exam room. She felt the mass and stated that it most probably was a cyst due to my age and lack of family history. She immediately sent me to one of her colleagues, which is also her own breast surgeon, as she has had 3 cysts removed in her lifetime. My lump was biopsied and five days later over Zoom, the breast surgeon informed me that I had breast cancer. I was in complete shock. In fact, my body went numb.

I was 34 years old and breast cancer was never in the slightest sense on my life's radar. Moreover, this occurred deep in the Covid-19 pandemic, before vaccines had been developed. Needless to say, I was terrified! I actually graduated with my PhD in Biochemistry in the same month as I was diagnosed! (August 2020) Talk about extreme joy and pain at the same time! I had HER2+, ER+, PR+, also known as triple positive breast cancer. I was originally diagnosed with stage 2 because the lump was over 4cm and had spread to one of my lymph nodes. Thankfully, my doctors decided to downgrade it to stage 1C. I underwent 6 months of chemotherapy and targeted therapy, a lumpectomy, 6 weeks of radiation, more targeted therapy, and finally 11 months of maintenance therapy to help prevent recurrence. Before the start of treatment, I felt as though I prepared myself as best I could in terms of the physical assault cancer was about to do on my body. The mental toll was inextricably worse.

Due to the pandemic, I only left my house for cancer treatment. Quite soon after, I started to feel like a prisoner in my own home. It was a catch-22. Isolation inside my home, and hysteria outside. But God never took his hand off of me! My family and friends showed up and showed out, constantly bringing me care packages full of things to make me smile. I'm currently on daily oral Tamoxifen for the next five years at least. But most importantly, I'm beyond grateful to be cancer free!

I am currently a Biochemist and an Assistant Biology Professor at Salem University. I graduated from Spelman College with a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry, received a Master’s in Biomedical Sciences from the University of Houston-Victoria, and subsequently a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Houston. My doctoral dissertation highlighted my research in mechanisms of action in Tuberculosis and pancreatic cancer. I am heavily involved in many breast cancer organizations including Tigerlily, the Wisdom Study, Angels Surviving Cancer, The Chrysalis Initiative, Pretty Girls With Cancer, For The Breast of Us, and Susan G. Komen. I also serve on the Cancer Fund Virtual Screening Committee, in which I complete initial rounds of screening for novel and innovative cancer diagnostics and therapeutics. I am a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the Association of Women in Science-Gulf Coast Chapter, and an affiliate scientist with SuperGIRLS SHINE Foundation. I am also on the board of the Ashley Jadine Foundation, a nonprofit organization that focuses on the prevention of teenage suicide. In my spare time I enjoy working out and scrapbooking.


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