Angela is a 48-year-old single mother of one son with a B.A. and master’s degree in Organizational Development who is currently living with stage IV metastatic breast cancer. Angela has made it her mission to live her life to the fullest with this terminal disease and is determined to help other cancer patients do the same.
Angela was first diagnosed with a non-invasive form of breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 32. She had her breasts examined during an annual checkup with her general doctor and was referred for her first mammogram. She went a week later and had a biopsy the same day. That night, the doctor called to tell her she had Stage 0 breast cancer, also called ductal carcinoma in situ.
Her doctor was extremely optimistic; the cancer hadn’t spread and with treatment she would probably never have to face this disease again. Tests showed that it was HER2 negative and estrogen receptor positive. She sought opinions from two breast surgeons, opting for a unilateral mastectomy along with immediate reconstruction. After surgery, she took Tamoxifen for five years to keep the cancer from recurring.
Her Second Act
In 2010, she noticed a small bump on the skin of her left breast. It wasn’t irritated or discolored, so she ignored it. A few months later, she showed it to her breast surgeon during a routine checkup. Her doctor measured it and took pictures, then said, “I want to remove it.”
When the report came back post-surgery, the news was not positive. This seemingly simple bump was cancerous. Afterward, she did get good news. Doctors said that it had been completely removed, and she was again cancer free—no chemo or radiation needed.
She returned to her regular job and regular life. She tried to live each day to the fullest with the understanding that things could have turned out much differently, and she was indeed blessed. She knew she would have to be cautious and take good care of her health, but she was not going to let cancer define her. She is much more than a cancer survivor.
Her Third Round
In 2011, a nagging cold sent Angela to urgent care, where an X-ray was taken for suspected bronchitis. The next day, the office called to say her X-ray showed an abnormality. When Angela followed up with her oncologist, he had a sad look on his face as he uttered the worst: “Your cancer has returned, and it’s Stage IV metastatic breast cancer.”
The cancer had spread to her chest wall, spine and head. There was no cure. She would need to be on some treatment for the rest of her life, and her life expectancy was five years. The doctor outlined his plan of action: Faslodex (fulvestrant), an estrogen receptor down regulator, plus 24 rounds of radiation. She needed to start treatment immediately.
During that period, Angela was working full time. She decided it was time to leave her job and focus on her health, but she is not the type of person to sit and do nothing. She made the decision to do charity work and help people. She put up a social post and made herself available to help another cancer patients get to their doctor appointments or run errands.
While she was driving a family member to appointments, she started handing out business cards at the cancer institutes. The calls began to come in and patients were telling her that they couldn’t pay for transportation, but Angela was more than happy to help them free of charge. She knew what they were going through, and she knew she could help them. She decided to advocate for them and help them understand the process that she knew all too well.
A Big Decision
In 2012, Angela had an oophorectomy to help reduce the cancer from growing or spreading. This procedure was recommended by her oncologist because her cancer is ER/PR+ Her2- and feeds off of estrogen.
In 2016 after years of deliberation, Angela chose to explant her left breast because she suffered from nerve damage as a result of the removal of some of her lymph nodes during surgery. To help alleviate some of the pain and discomfort, it was recommended by her neurologist to remove her saline implant. After the removal of her implant, she didn’t think of herself as different or realize there was a “flat community” of women like her with one breast or none. Not knowing her options for bra fillers, she put on a bathing suit right after the explant, took pictures in Cuba and posted them on social media. It wasn’t until another breastie like herself saw and commented how Angela inspired her that she fully embraced being a #unoboobgirl.
Angela’s treatment plan includes Faslodex shots every month, Xgeva (denosumab) shots every month to help with bone strength and an oral medication called Ibrance (palbociclib), which she takes for 21 days at a time.
The disease that first graced its presence in her life in 2003 as “non-invasive” had again and again invaded her body and changed her life, but Angela refuses to let breast cancer own or define her journey. Angela is determined to be an inspiration for every cancer patient.
She really dislikes when people tell her, “Keep up the fight.” She isn’t fighting; she is winning. Although she looks happy and confident, the fear that cancer will consume her is real. But she won’t allow it to, and wants to inspire others to do the same. Angela has represented and spoken for breast cancer survivors at New York Fashion Week, on Good Day Charlotte Fox 46 news any many other events and platforms. She is also the African American Ambassador for theMetastatic Breast Cancer (MBC) Project of the Count Me In Initiative.
In Her Words: Living Life to the Fullest
Generally speaking, I feel good. I am blessed for every waking hour, for every single day. I may get tired, I may be achy, and I know I can’t do all the things that I used to do. At the same time, I am leading a life filled with joy, filled with goodness. I know that I can inspire and empower other women with my story and acts of kindness. I hope my legacy will be one of service that encourages others to do good for humankind, being a light in the world. I help people. I go to conferences. I meet amazing individuals; I fill my days with good things and good thoughts.
Today, I am 48 years old. I live with Metastatic Breast Cancer. I tell you to Live Life Now in order to live to the fullest, because you do not know what tomorrow will bring!