Chronicles of a Breast Cancer Survivor by Sabrina Ramadan

“Cancer is not who you are. Your strength and bravery are what defines you.”

I’m Sabrina and am a breast cancer survivor. I was diagnosed at the young age of 30 years old, and I am 34 now. I am Arab-American, have three kids, and live in Texas.

How did I find out I had cancer? Well, let me tell you. I had an annual GYN checkup, and a nurse did a breast exam. She found a lump and asked if I had ever noticed it. I had not and asked her if I should be worried about it. She replied, “No, but let’s check it out just to make sure.” I honestly put it on the back burner and did not have health insurance at that time. Therefore, I never made an appointment because I did not want to pay out of pocket. One day, the doctor's office called me and told me the breast exam was free. I went in to do a mammogram and they wanted further testing. At that point, I started to worry and started crying. They performed a breast biopsy and told me the results would come out in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, I mentioned it to my family, and NOBODY believed it was cancer because we do not have it in our family. And because I was so young. I started looking up stuff on Google about breast cancer and I got scared, but I still refused to believe I had it. Then I get a phone call to come in for my biopsy results. I decided to go by myself because I thought everything would be fine. The nurse comes in and says, “You have Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.” I said, “Huh, what’s that?” “Dear…you have cancer.” I burst into tears.

After that doctor's visit, my whole world turned upside down. My first step was to get health insurance and then to find a team of oncologists. At this point, I found out it was stage 2B IDC, PR+, ER+, HER2-, with negative hereditary genes. They performed another biopsy, a bone scan, and an ultrasound. This was my treatment plan: one month of AC chemo, six months of treatment with Taxol, a mastectomy, and 33 rounds of radiation. After the first round of AC chemo, I went to the emergency room for dehydration and fatigue. It was rough. Moving onto Taxol, I did well with no side effects, thank God. At this point, I was a little tired, but my appetite was healthy. I would go in every week and be surrounded by people twice my age. Six months later, I had a single mastectomy in March 2020. Believe it or not, that surgery was very easy. I had zero pain and mild discomfort in my left arm. They also took out lymph nodes. In July 2020, I started my 33 rounds of radiation. I would go in every single day for 15 minutes. Did my treatment plan end there? Nope. Fast forward to April 2022, I opted for an oophorectomy, which is an ovary removal. I had to do this because my body was still producing estrogen. We didn’t want to have any more kids, so this was a mild decision. This was an easy surgery as well. Now I am living with a single breast, a breast prosthesis, and no ovaries, but I was considered to have NED (no evidence detected). As the years go by, I am more and more uncomfortable having a breast prosthesis. I decided to see a plastic surgeon to see my options. I was a great candidate for a DIEP Flap surgery. This is where they cut skin and fat from your stomach and reconstruct the breast. This was one of the hardest surgeries I’ve ever done by far. This was performed in December 2022. Fast forward to February 2023, I did fat grafting and had a breast reduction, and I am pleased with my results. Now here I am living cancer-free, taking oral medication for most of my life.

Sabrina Ramadan

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