No one ever thinks they will develop cancer. Cassandra Lewis-Moore was one of those people. The 34-year-old thought there was a possibility she would get diabetes as it'runs'in her family, but she never thought cancer would happen to her. But during the eighth month of pregnancy with her first child in October 2010, she felt a huge lump in one of her breasts. She knew something was wrong. She sought medical attention.
"It was very large, and it shouldn't have been there,"recalled Lewis-Moore."I'd never felt anything like that before. It didn't hurt, but it was very hard and very big. But because the breasts were so large you couldn't see it."
Because she was pregnant, her doctor ordered an ultrasound of the breast and concluded it was breast milk that would go away once she started breastfeeding. Lewis-Moore, a newlywed and her husband, Kevin welcomed a beautiful baby boy, Andreus, who they call"KJ"into the family. In the months after her son's birth, she noticed her breast size decreasing, but the lump getting bigger and protruding through the skin and not disappearing like the doctor had told her it would. It had started to hurt. It was a pain she chalked up to tenderness from breastfeeding. That was until the day she was playing with a then crawling"KJ"and like all babies do, he kneed her in the breast. The pain was excruciating. She remembers actually pushing her baby away from her so suddenly that she scared him. She thought about what the doctors had told her, and massaged her breast and put hot towels on it to help dissolve the milk. But it was the day that she took a"me day"in January 2011, and headed to the spa for a massage. As the therapist worked on her back, she said it was so painful she could not complete the therapy. That pain sent her back to her doctor.
Her doctor requested a mammogram. The result showed hardened milk. Her doctor requested a lumpectomy to remove the hardened mass, which was done in March 2011. The mass was tested and the result returned as Stage 2 breast cancer. The cancer cells were actually inside the hardened breast milk.
FRIGHT TAKES HOLD
Lewis-Moore was scared--not because it had taken so long to determine she had breast cancer--she was mad because she wondered what would happen to her family after she'd waited so long to get married and have a child, and then to be diagnosed with cancer while still a newlywed and a new mother.
"In my 20s, it was all about education and my career--so in my 30s, it was about getting married. And I'm the only girl and the last child in my family, so it was a big thing[for me to get married and have a child], and to be told this[that I had cancer]. I thought, what was going to happen to my family?"
Lewis-Moore began her battle with the deadly cancer cells. She celebrated her baby's first birthday one week before she began chemotherapy treatment. And she did her best to keep her energy up over the months of treatment for her child, who was too young to understand that his mom was sick.
"He just knows one day mommy had hair that he used to pull,"says Lewis-Moore who boldly sports a bald head no hair caps for her."The tough part was when we were playing one day and I had already started chemo, and he pulled on my hair, and a whole clump came out in his hand and fell on his face. He just dropped it and ran. He was scared. But other than that, mommy is still mommy. Sometimes, she can still play; sometimes, she can't because she's very tired."
She's finished with chemo, but will have to take additional treatment because she was diagnosed as HER2-positive. This is a diagnosis for people who have a protein called human epidermal growth factor that promotes the growth of cancer cells. HER2-positivebreast cancers tend to be more aggressive than other types of breast cancer. They're also less responsive to hormone treatment. However, treatments that specifically target HER2 are very effective.
"I'm going to have to do additional treatments, but they're not as severe as the chemo, and they want me to do radiation, and we're still setting that up."
The road to survivor isn't quite finished yet, but Lewis-Moore begs to differ. "I had a lump--the cancer was there, and they took the lump out, and the cancer hadn't spread."
Even though chemo was a downside, Lewis-Moore has come out on the other side with a friend--a 31-year-old who had to have an immediate double mastectomy because her cancer was spreading like wildfire.
"Chemo was rough; I will not lie,"she says."It is not rough for everyone, but for those who have the illnesses after the chemo, make sure you have a strong support system at home and at work."
BRINGING SEXY BACK
She is now on a slow road to bringing sexy back. She's walking at least 20 minutes a day as recommended by her doctor, and looking forward to the fabulous new breasts she will soon be getting. She had a partial mastectomy on one breast, but to put safety measures in place for her future, she wants to have a double mastectomy then get those"fabulous new breasts"with which will come a tummy tuck. The surgery she will have done, a TRAM Flap Breast Reconstruction, which is the gold standard in breast construction, removes some of her stomach skin and fat, to reconstruct her breasts and fill them in.
As she battled the disease, she admits that she was not always as confident as she is today and says at one point, she really stopped trying and didn't bother with anything. But after a month or two, she said to hell with it--that she was going to live her life and have fun. She was going to dress up and go out and rock her bald head.
When she first started to lose her hair, which was natural, her cousin took her to his barber and she got a low haircut. The hair continued to come out, so she told her husband to shave off the rest. Right after she did that, Lewis-Moore, who works for BAF Financial and Insurance Bahamas Ltd., the coordinators behind Denim Day in the country for 14 years in raising monies for a cure, says she had to attend a company awards ceremony to which she wore a head-wrap. For a week she wore different head-wraps until she was hit by a hot flash at work. All she wanted to do was get naked, but she couldn't at work. The best thing for her to do was remove the head-wrap. That was the last day she wore one.
Removing the head-wrap liberated her and gave her confidence.
"I had another coworker who had breast cancer and her advice to me was to just wear makeup, but I couldn't wear that because I sweat too much, so I would just draw on my eyebrows if I remembered in the mornings. One morning, I woke up, was washing my face, looked in the mirror and said,"By damn, I don't have any eyebrows, eyelashes, nothing. So some days, I had eyebrowsâEUR¦some days, I didn't and I put on my lip-gloss, put on my earrings and was out the door."
The cancer survivor is excited for her future. And she says cancer does not have to be a death sentence. She says women need to take their health seriously and check things out because they know their bodies, and know when something is wrong. She encourages them to get bumps or moles that they hadn't seen before checked out.
For anyone who has been newly diagnosed with breast cancer or will be diagnosed in the future, Lewis-Moore says she has learned that you need to have a strong support system at home and at work, both of which she had.
Through her battle, Lewis-Moore was thankful for the support she received from her husband, and also thankful that he had a group of friends with wives, sisters or mothers that had breast cancer that he could talk to.
"It was tough, because being a newlywed and fairly young, and I didn't have urges. It just wasn't there. I was miserable in the sense that I did not want to be bothered and I did not want to be here."
But she says her husband's support, as well as that of her family--her mother traveled from Grand Bahama to stay with them for six months--and her aunts and cousins helped by keeping the baby some days and make certain she was okay, especially after days when she endured eight-hour chemotherapy sessions, helped her through the rough times. And her co-workers that knew what she was going through were helpful and very understanding.
"I never thought cancer would happen to me. I thought maybe I would get diabetes because that runs in my family, but never anything like this,"she says.
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