Meet Breast Cancer Survivor Tracee Allen

Breast Cancer Awareness Month is over, but that doesn’t mean that we stop showing support and acknowledging our strong and beautiful survivors. I am so pleased to feature Ms. Tracee Allen, as this week’s Sister With Vision. Her interview was so informative and helpful and I believe that anyone dealing with Breast Cancer or has had to have a double mastectomy and undergo the reconstruction process to please take a look and share this post. Also, please be sure to check out and donate to her gofundme page. Any amount would help. Without further adieu, I introduce to you this black queen full of strength, Tracee Allen.

Tell me a little about yourself. 

FB_IMG_1446526552695

My name is Tracee Allen. I am 41  years old and I’m originally from Indianapolis but l currently live in Bloomington, IN. I am a divorced mother of an 11 year old boy in the 6th grade. My profession is a Commercial Liability Claims Adjuster for trucking companies. I like to travel and spend time with my family.

Please share your story. How did you first find out that you had breast cancer? What stage are you in (if not in remission) and what treatments have you undergone? 

I was already on annual mammograms since 2011 after I had a benign cyst biopsied in my left breast. In July 2014, my doctor said he saw some “suspicious” calcifications he’d like to monitor, but said he wasn’t concerned. He said it would be up to me to choose to biopsy them then, or wait 6 months for another mammogram. Since I had a horrible experience with the biopsy in 2011, I chose to wait. In December 2014, I started experiencing pain in my left breast, but the doctor refused to do my mammogram until the 6 month mark which was February 2015, even though I was able to get a prescription for a bilateral mammogram from my OB/GYN. When I went back in February, they only wanted to scan the right breast until I basically “threw a fit” to do the left too. As long as your insurance will cover a procedure, fight for it! They did the left and nothing was found, but they did find cancer in a milk duct in my right breast. This is considered Stage 0 – Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS). The next stage was an MRI which revealed a tumor at the 6 o’clock position of my breast and in my lymph node. This upgraded me to Stage 2A.

Since my 2 areas of cancer were too far apart, the recommendation was a mastectomy. I wasn’t prepared to make surgery decisions yet. Since the doctor said that having chemo before or after surgery would not make a difference in survivability, I chose to do chemo first. I also have Lupus which complicated my surgery, reconstruction and possible radiation decisions. I did 2 rounds of chemo over 5 months and I think I handled it well. I discovered that you have to eat and keep your naps short to prevent vomiting. Food is needed to soak up that chemo in your system. I also took my anti-nausea medicine on time. I felt like crap, but I never vomited.

FB_IMG_1443364573444

Physically, I chose to cut my long hair before chemo into a short cut. I never had a short hairstyle before so I felt that I might as well have fun for the 2 weeks they gave me when my hair was expected to fall out.

20150510_203230-1

It happened at exactly 2 weeks and I had my aunt buzz cut my hair. I was afraid of getting a cut in my head if I went completely bald. Any cuts or injury after chemo may take longer to heal or lead to infection. It was less traumatic losing little pieces of hair than long stands. I tried and hated wigs so I found a scarf style that I wear all the time. My pathology report showed that all the cancer was removed so I’m overjoyed to be done with cancer treatment but the reconstruction process is very uncomfortable and painful. And thank God I got a double mastectomy because there were “changes” in my left breast that would have led to cancer later.

The Reconstruction Process…..

I’m divorced and have hopes of getting remarried so having breast were important to me. Everyone gave me the speech that a man that truly wanted me, wouldn’t care if I had breast. I’m not confident enough to believe that. Since I wouldn’t know if radiation would be recommended until my pathology came back, I was taking a chance on starting the reconstruction process after the double mastectomy. I chose a double mastectomy because i was worried about the left breast pain before and possible reoccurance in the left. Plus i didn’t want 1 perky right breast and 1 saggy left breast. .lol! I trusted my faith and moved forward with the reconstruction. After the breast surgeon is done, the plastic surgeon comes in and inserts temporary expanders. Currently, I have weekly appointment with the plastic surgeon to inject saline into the expanders until I get to my desired C-cup size . In a couple of months, I will have another surgery to get my permanent implants. Then a few months after that, if I decide, I will get nipples created from my own skin. Soon after those heal, that nipples will have to be tattooed to match my skin tone. So yes, I’m very happy that my cancer treatment is over but the reconstruction process is very uncomfortable and painful. It takes several months to complete.

What advice would you give women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer?

My advice to others is to get a second opinion, try to have someone with you at all your appointments, tape record the consultations with your doctor and keep educating yourself. My brain was about to explode with everything I had to learn and all the decisions I had to make by myself. Fight for the treatment and diagnostic tests you want if you have the insurance coverage.  Also, if women or men have breast cancer in their family history,  get a mammogram as early as possible. I didn’t have any history and my genetics test was negative;  so thank God I was already on routine exams!

IG & Twitter: @gillty98

Gofundme:
fundraising campaign for Tracee Allen’s Breast Cancer Fight:

https://de.gofund.me/we5stdqc

Meet Breast Cancer Previvor, Monique Douglas

This week’s Sister With Vision feature is very special to me. As we all know, this month is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and it is a disease common in the community of African American women. It is the most common cancer among African American woman and in 2013, an estimated 27,060 new cases of breast cancer and 6,080 deaths were expected to occur among African American women. So it is with great pleasure that I introduce to you Breast Cancer Previvor, Monique Douglas. Please read and share her amazing story.

monique1

My name is Monique Douglas. I am 25 (soon to be 26) years old. I am from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in 2012 in Organizational Communication. I am currently a clinical training specialist for a hospital in Baton Rouge. My mother is a two time breast cancer survivor and my grandmother, who is now deceased, was a 26 year survivor. My family history of breast cancer is very strong. When my mother was diagnosed, I was 11 years old. Although I knew what breast cancer was, I didn’t know the details. She had a lumpectomy and radiation and was back at work in 6 weeks. For all I knew, my mother was just sick. My parents didn’t make a huge deal out of everything because they didn’t want to scare me. As I got older, my mother educated me on breast cancer and I become aware of how serious it was. My mother was a big part of Susan G. Komen Baton Rouge affiliate and I volunteered numerous times over the years in high school and throughout college.

moniquw

Fast forward 13 years from my mother’s first diagnosis, she called me downstairs in May of last year and told me they found cancer in the same breast and same spot as before. I was devastated. I am the only child and have no brothers and sisters that understood how I was feeling at that time, but my mom assured me everything would be okay and she was planning to have a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery ASAP. She found wonderful doctors in New Orleans who performed a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. She did 4 rounds of chemotherapy and was then tested for the BRCA gene, this is the gene that carries mutations for breast and ovarian cancer. In October of 2014, she tested positive for the gene and as soon as she tested positive I went to my doctor to see about getting tested. In my mind, I almost knew I would test positive because of my strong family history. I was sent to a breast specialist, Dr. Hailey in Baton Rouge and he told me my percentage (chance of Breast cancer) was so high that he suggested that I have a double mastectomy with reconstructive surgery within the year. I WAS FLOORED!!!! I was 24 and was planning to wait at least 5-10 years to have such a drastic surgery, but I did not hesitate with my decision. I remember him telling me “Monique it isn’t a matter of IF cancer will show up, honestly it’s a matter of WHEN.” From there he gave me recommendations for a plastic surgeon to do the reconstructive part and I started doing my research.

image1

A few months earlier, I went with my mother to a doctor when she was trying to find a surgeon, Dr. Sadeghi in New Orleans, who really impressed me. I decided to call his office and explain my situation to them the staff was SO helpful and caring and in January I went for my consultation and scheduled my surgery in February 2015. I have a double mastectomy with DIEP flap reconstruction. They removed all of my breast tissue and made new breast from fat from my abdomen. All together I had 3 surgeries over 8 months and can say I do not regret my decision. My chance of breast cancer occurring went from 84-86% to 1-2% which is AMAZING. I feel and look the same way I did before the surgery besides my scars across my abdomen and on my breast and I can live better knowing how much my chances have increased. I will get ultrasounds of my breasts and ovaries every 6 months to stay on top of things just in case but will no longer need to get mammograms. Not everyone with the BRCA gene may not make the decision I made to have a double mastectomy at such a young age, but I encourage you to get checked regularly and if something doesn’t feel right go see the doctor. Nobody knows your body as well as you do.

Thank you so very much, Monique for sharing your story. It takes great courage to be so transparent with the world, on a such a sensitive subject as this. You are truly a Sister With Vision. 

With Sisterly Love,

B