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Young, Black and Thriving

Ashley Bell is living with metastatic breast cancer. This is her story in her own words.

I was diagnosed with de novo metastatic breast cancer at age 34 in April 2021 with HER2+ ER- PR- metastatic invasive ductal carcinoma. I don’t have a history of breast cancer in my immediate biological family, and I don’t carry the gene mutation.

I started receiving my first line of treatment in May 2021. After eight cycles of chemotherapy treatments, I had a right breast mastectomy (RIP LOUISE) followed by a liver resection and removal of all my lymph nodes under my right arm in June 2022. I then started 30 treatments of daily radiation.

I thought that my little body was set to return to business as usual once I finished, but NOPE. That was the thought process of a very energetic, independent and stubborn 35-year-old. My breast cancer touched my brain at the beginning of August 2022. August sucked! I only completed about 12 of my breast radiation treatments. All my positive progress came to an immediate stop. I had to have emergency surgery to go flat just so I could get an MRI.

Long story short, it’s been a roller coaster. I had a craniotomy. I did five proton therapy brain radiation treatments. This process has hit me hard. I plainly remember thinking how a 35-year-old could feel so much older in such a short time frame. I could barely walk at times. They gave me a cane…an old lady cane…no disrespect! At one point, I remember sitting on the edge of my bed, too weak to walk to my bathroom, so I got down on the floor and crawled there.

I often refer to these side effects as my battle wounds and they serve as constant reminders of how the effects of metastatic breast cancer treatments can be a whole other beast to deal with. Going into my metastatic journey, my main goal was to treat my diagnosis as aggressively as I could so that I could have a greater chance at life.

I remember having bursts of strength at times, just because I knew that I needed to be strong. Even while fighting for my life, I was Ashley first and this girl felt that she had to do all she could to be here annoying y’all FOREVER.

Looking back, the focus of dealing with the possibility of long-term side effects was not on my mind at all. I had adapted to my circumstances. I remember just wanting to get through my diagnosis, one day at a time. My diagnosis is aggressive – but so am I!

There is no cure for stage 4 breast cancer. I will be on some type of treatment for the rest of my life.

So, now what? I’m putting a game plan in motion to deal with the onset of those painful side effects that will come along because of metastatic breast cancer treatments. I have learned how to manage my side effects to a level that makes it bearable for everyday life. I fool y’all every time, so I guess I’m mastering it. I decided a long time ago that I was not going to give up. I feel that I would be doing myself a disservice if I did not provide myself with as much self-care as I possibly can so that I can be a better me. How much help or support can I give to others if I am not seeking the help I need?

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.

Learn more about metastatic breast cancer.