Breast Cancer: “You are beautiful and you are a warrior. Always remember that”
Published Oct 5, 2022 • By Lizzi Bollinger
Sal is a New-Jersey born Dallas resident who was diagnosed with breast cancer at a relatively young age. She tells Carenity about her experiences with cancer and how it has empowered her to spread positivity through social media!
Read on to find out more!
Hello Sal, thank you for having agreed to share your story with us on Carenity.
First of all, could you tell us more about yourself
My name is Salyndria, I was born and raised in New-Jersey and currently reside in the Dallas metroplex. I come from a huge family, but I have one son who is my pride and joy. I love traveling, anything adventurous, the arts, spending time with my family and friends, and I am a big foodie.
Could you tell us when you were diagnosed with breast cancer? What alerted/prompted you to consult a doctor? What type of tests did the doctor run? How did you feel when you were diagnosed?
I was diagnosed with breast cancer on August 21, 2017. A month prior, I was in San Antonio for a weekend girls trip and discovered a small lump in my armpit. At first my doctor did not take me seriously because I was young (36 years old). As a matter of fact, I had visited my doctor a few months prior because of some tenderness with my right breast (the breast the cancer was eventually found in), but he actually laughed and told me that I was just fine and due to me having a baby a year prior that the tenderness was probably due to that. However, after I pushed further he decided to take me more seriously, and I had a mammogram and biopsy before I was eventually diagnosed. It was an out of body experience when I received the call from that same doctor. I was actually at work, and had to walk outside to compose myself. I don’t remember much else about how I felt that day for some reason. I think it is my mind’s way of suppressing the trauma.
What type of breast cancer do you have? What distinguishes this type of cancer from others?
I was diagnosed with Stage II Triple Negative Breast Cancer. When cancer is first detected there are a few things that doctors look for – Estrogen, Progesterone, and a protein receptor named HER2. When neither of these are detected then the cancer is called Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) which is a highly aggressive breast cancer normally found in young women and minority women, especially black and Hispanic women.
What treatment did you receive? Were you satisfied with it? Did you experience any side effects?
I received a double mastectomy, and a combination of two chemotherapy drugs - Carboplatin and Taxol. At the time this combination was not approved to be used for breast cancer patients. The standard was Adriamycin (Also known as the “red devil”) and Cytoxan, and Taxol. I did not want to take this combination because of the toxicity, especially Adriamycin, so I was my own health advocate, and spoke with my oncologist about any other alternatives that would not potentially damage my heart. She contacted the National Cancer Institute who knew of a trial with Carboplatin and Taxol and the rest is history. However, it is still chemo, so I experienced side effects such as extreme fatigue and weakness, hair loss, chemical menopause, and pain.
You are active on social networks under the handle @MissSurvivor. Was this the case before? Why did you decide to talk about your battle with cancer on social networks? How does sharing your story make you feel?
I was active on social media before cancer but changed my handle name to @Missurvivor after my cancer diagnosis. The reason why I decided to share my cancer battle on social media was for my own healing honestly. I was alone, there were no organizations that I knew of at the time that catered to my age group, and I just needed some place to share, so I wrote on social media, and it was so therapeutic along with the support I received from those who followed my journey which was very much encouraging. Little did I know that I was inspiring others at the same time that they were encouraging me.
Would you say cancer has changed your outlook on life? If so, in what ways?
Absolutely! I am a totally different person after cancer treatment. A lot stronger. When you go through something like cancer and come out alive, you have a better appreciation for life. Things that bothered you before, are no longer stressful because you know that it could be worse. You know that somewhere there is someone in a chemo chair begging to live, and that puts everything into perspective. Honestly, I am just happy to be alive and with that comes much gratitude and appreciation for life in general.
Cancer and cancer treatments can cause big physical changes. Did you need to adjust to a new appearance? What tips and tricks do you use to feel more feminine?
Yes, I know its vain to say, but the hardest thing for me as it related to cancer treatment was adjusting to being bald, and having no eyebrows and no breasts. I felt that cancer had stolen my femininity, and that it wasn’t fair. I also had changes in my skin where my face became scaley. I felt so unattractive, and sometimes refused to look in the mirror. I just wanted to remember myself as I was. But one day, I just felt this strength out of nowhere to look in the mirror and really look within my soul. When you have lost everything on the outside, I always say you better make sure your soul is pretty, because that is all you have to pull from, but that is in reality what makes you beautiful in the first place. So I looked deeply into my soul, and realized that I was indeed beautiful no matter what cancer did to my outer appearance, and then from there I was able to build my confidence back.
Have you had to adapt your lifestyle (diet, sleep, work, etc.)? If yes, in what ways?
I did have to make some adjustments. Luckily I worked a job that was very understanding, so I was able to take the whole week off during the week of treatment, and would go into work every other week (during my off treatment week). I slept a lot more since I was always very tired, and I did change my diet at the time by eating vegan, taking vitamin supplements and drinking LOTS of water.
Did your loved ones support you? Was it easy for you to talk about the disease to those around you?
I did have tons of support from loved ones, and even those that I hadn’t spoken to in years. From my grandmother who prayed for me daily, to my mother who never missed one doctors appointment or chemo session, to my son who cheered my spirits with his handsome smile, to my friends who flew down from New Jersey to come with me to retrieve my eggs before chemo, to all of the love received from friends and associates from different stages in my life, to even facebook friends, it was priceless, and is what really made me push through this difficult time. I don’t even think they all realize the impact they had on my healing.
Finally, what advice would you give to Carenity members also affected by breast cancer?
I know that you didn’t ask for this. I know that this seems so unfair, and it is extremely unfair honestly, but you were chosen to go through this journey for a reason. You are special. You are strong and resilient. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are beautiful and you are a warrior. Always remember that. Also, there are tons of organizations where you can get the support and sisterhood that you need and no longer have to go through this alone. Connect with those organizations and the many survivors that are on social media platforms such as Instagram. It will help you greatly to navigate this crazy journey.
Many thanks to Sal for sharing her story!
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