Nothing prepared Bola Ogundimu for a breast cancer diagnosis. In 2021, Bola learned she had ductal carcinoma in situ in her right breast and invasive lobular carcinoma in her left breast. “Even my prior experience as an oncology nurse did nothing to prepare me for the reality of facing my own diagnosis,” Bola said. “It’s been intense.”
Bola’s treatment included a double mastectomy, radiation therapy and hormone therapy. In 2022, she had tissue expander exchange surgery and she is on hormone therapy for the next eight years to help prevent recurrence. Bola’s family health history includes relatives with lung cancer, melanoma, endometrial and colorectal cancers. Based on her family history and conversations with her doctor, Bola underwent genetic testing. She is negative for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 inherited gene mutations.
“What I wish people understood about a breast cancer diagnosis is that at first, it’s extremely overwhelming. It almost feels like being hit by a never-ending, relentless storm of activities and emotions,” said Bola. “Some of the challenges I’ve faced during this journey have come with needing to come to terms with the diagnosis initially and, once treatment began, it’s been coming to terms with and embracing my new normal every single day.”
Bola found herself having to take a deep breath and let her emotions out. “Seeking professional mental health help is so important,” she said. “It could be from a psychologist, a mental health counselor, a family counselor or clergy.”
She also realized the importance of accepting her diagnosis and meeting with her care team right away. “Your team may include a breast surgeon, a plastic surgeon, radiation and medical oncologists, a dietician, social workers and a breast cancer navigator,” Bola explained. “The team comes together to evaluate options for your treatment plan. And the plan may be brutal, so it’s important to take things one step at a time and follow your oncology team’s recommendations.”
Breast cancer support groups helped Bola as she grappled with her new reality, as did maintaining mental, spiritual, physical and emotional health throughout her journey. “It really does take a village. It was immensely helpful to read the stories of other pink sisters,” she said. “Remembering you’re never, ever alone is so important. Every pink warrior’s story matters and makes a difference.”
Taking ownership of her breast cancer journey was important for Bola, too. “This experience, as heartbreaking as it was, turned into a blessing in disguise,” she said. “I’m dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer and building communities, particularly in disproportionately affected communities.”
If you or someone you know needs more information about breast health or breast cancer, call Komen’s Patient Care Center at 1-877 GO KOMEN (1-877-465-6636) or email the helpline at firstname.lastname@example.org.