Shaun Adkins was used to body aches. She has lupus and during flareups, she’d be tired, have joint pain and muscle weakness. When her arm began to hurt, she assumed she was having a flareup. But then she found a lump in her breast. “I went to my primary doctor, who sent me to a breast cancer center, where they did a diagnostic mammogram and a biopsy,” Shaun said. Results showed Shaun had stage 2 breast cancer.
Shaun knew how devastating a breast cancer diagnosis can be. Her grandmother passed away from the disease before Shaun was born. “My mom would tell me what my grandmother went through when she had breast cancer. My grandmother had actually bought a house, but never had a chance to live in it because she died,” Shaun said. “We caught my breast cancer early. I’ve always gone in for my regular mammograms because of my grandmother.”
“I was already living with a chronic illness. I froze when I heard the words ‘breast cancer.’ I was only 44. I have 13-year-old twins. I’m active. And now I have breast cancer?” Shaun said. “I was numb.”
The moment Shaun’s cancer diagnosis felt real was when she had her port for chemotherapy put in. “In my head I thought, okay, this is real now, and I told myself, it’s time to fight,” she said.
“I was nervous about starting chemo. I worried how my body would react to it. I was already on so many medications because of the lupus,” said Shaun. “No one could go to my appointments with me because of the pandemic. I broke down during the first chemo, sitting in this little cubicle by myself. I went through two boxes of tissue crying, thinking, ‘what’s going to happen now?’”
Shaun’s treatment included a lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and immunotherapy. She developed lymphedema and uses a lymphedema compression machine for an hour every day, something she will likely need to do for the rest of her life.
“Breast cancer is mentally and physically draining. I’m thankful to God for my support system, but it was still so hard,” Shaun said. “When I was sitting alone while getting chemo, I was back and forth, up and down, not knowing if God had decided it was my time to die. But I’ve learned there is life after cancer, and I hope other people know that. I hope they know they’ll be okay.”
Much of Shaun’s treatment fell during the COVID-19 pandemic, so there were things she missed. “Life was on hold,” she said. “My daughter graduated from college, and I couldn’t attend. I couldn’t go places. Things like that made me feel helpless. I was mad at the beginning, when I was first diagnosed, but I realized I needed to encourage myself, I needed to find a way to still enjoy life.”
In the middle of her chemotherapy treatments, Shaun thought about her grandmother and the house her grandmother bought but never had a chance to live in. “I said okay, I’m buying a home,” Shaun said. “And I bought a home, while doing chemo. I said, ‘thank you, God.’ I was able to buy a home, even with cancer. And I was able to move into that home. And I have a sticky note on my bathroom window in that home that says, ‘I shall live.’”
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.