Stories about breast cancer that can inspire and inform

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Finding Grace

Shareka Allen was diagnosed with HER2+ breast cancer in March 2020. This is her story in her own words.

I learned I had breast cancer, in the right breast, in March 2020, right at the beginning of COVID-19. I had felt a knot in my breast and told my mom. She said, well, you’re young, you’re 28, maybe it’s benign, but she told me to go ahead and call the doctor.  

During my appointment, my OB/GYN felt it, too, but at first, she was like, well, you’re so young, come back in a couple of months. Her back was to me when she said this, and when she turned around and saw my face, she said, “You don’t like that answer?” and I told her no, so she said she’d be right back. When she came back, she told me they could do a mammogram right then.  

This was my first mammogram. They also did an ultrasound and the technician asked me if anyone in my family had breast cancer. I said no, but I remember thinking when she asked that, “Okay, it’s cancer. I have breast cancer.” 

When the doctor came in, she said, “I’m going to be honest with you. I think it’s breast cancer and that it’s aggressive.” It was a whirlwind. My appointment was during my lunch break, no one was with me. I went back to work.  

I wanted to make everything as normal as possible for my son, who was 3 years old. I made up my mind that we were going to have a normal life, no matter what. My mom moved in to help. I maintained my full-time job and my son played sports the entire time. 

I had six rounds of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. Then I did radiation. Scans showed there were still signs of cancer, so I had 14 more rounds of chemotherapy. My body kept rejecting the expanders after my double mastectomy, so I had a DIEP flap.  

At one point, I needed help ensuring all my bills were paid. That’s when I turned to Komen and applied for financial assistance. Within hours, I had a response, and I was able to pay what I needed to pay. It was so helpful at that moment when I needed help. Even with working full-time and support from loved ones and insurance, the copays and the doctors and the medicines and surgeries and the treatments, it’s a lot.  

I can’t imagine what it’s like for people without any support, so it’s comforting to know that Komen is there for people who need extra help. You have a lot of stress when you’re going through breast cancer treatment, and Komen can help take some of the burden off.  

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.