When I was a senior in high school, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer so I became familiar with self-breast exams and mammograms at an early age. In my 20’s I had a few biopsies that were benign. In September of 2018, I did a self-breast examination in the shower and found a lump on my right breast. Since this was not the first lump, and fibrocystic breasts are common in African American women, I was not overly concerned. I decided to make an appointment with my doctor and, due to my history, my primary care physician was not overly distressed but took the necessary precautions and ordered testing just to be safe. September turned to October, breast cancer awareness month, which brings about constant reminders that my mother lost her fight and is always a difficult time for me. This year, I was finally feeling like I was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I had gotten my MSW and was working through a lot. Then boom, in mid-October of 2018, the tests revealed that I had breast cancer.
It was hard to tell my loved ones the news, especially my little brother because we are very close and have both endured so much. Seeing him hurt was devastating but also showed me how important it was for me to fight. In December of 2018, I had a mastectomy. My reconstruction surgery kept getting rescheduled and pushed back and before I could get that done, I started having trouble breathing. There was so much fluid build up on my lungs that I had to have it removed twice in one month. On October 1, 2019, which ironically is my mother’s birthday and the day she died, I found out that my cancer had spread to my lungs. I am currently on targeted oral chemotherapy as well as a hormonal remedy. Additionally, I have undergone three breast reconstruction surgeries. Through all this God has blessed me tremendously. When people see me, they are in awe that I have so much joy. I have come to know that it is okay to not be okay. I know the importance of having a support system and I am thankful they have been there for me on some of my toughest days.
Meet Fantasia Barrino
Gym shoes and shoe shelves