Survivor Stories 2015:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 27. My mother died of breast cancer at 29. Two of her sisters died of breast cancer, one of them in her early thirties and another when she was fifty. I’ve had six maternal cousins have breast cancer. Two years before I was diagnosed, my first cousin—and best friend—died at 25 of breast cancer.
When I found a mass, given my history, I kind of I knew what it was before I got the diagnosis.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
In my family, a breast cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. Following my diagnosis and treatment, I was motivated to become a patient navigator so I could share my experience and knowledge with other young women going through the same experience.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
I was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer, and tested positive for the BRCA1 mutation. My treatment included chemotherapy.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
There were countless times I felt alone through my journey. I learned how important it is for families to be a part of the treatment experience. My family figured that I was strong and I would be ok, so they really weren’t there for me. At first I was angry, I felt like they should have been there, but going through it alone helped me become strong. Now I work to make sure other women do not feel alone like I did.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Women need to value themselves and self-advocate despite overwhelming obstacles.
Trust yourself. You have the right to get a second opinion. Don’t think that you’re stuck with a certain type of treatment just because you have Medicaid or you don’t have enough money. You still are human and you deserve to be treated that way. Don’t settle or believe you have to be treated badly for having breast cancer. Stand up for yourself.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
I’m still fighting.
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
I’m the first in my family to survive the disease in twenty years and during my experience, I learned everyone needs someone. It’s important to be able to connect with someone who has had similar experiences, especially when trying to beat something like cancer.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
Once you get diagnosed with cancer, you’re never the same. Life after cancer is different, and just because you survived cancer, doesn’t mean the fight is over. You value your life in a new way, and so you have to do everything you can to make sure you stay alive.
Felicia Mahone, Individual Patient Navigator at Grady Memorial Hospital. She has been a navigator for the past six years following her experience with breast cancer.