STAGE AT DIAGNOSIS: 2B
ER DIAGNOSIS: Positive
PR DIAGNOSIS: Positive
HER2 DIAGNOSIS: Neutral at Diagnosis, now it’s Negative
In Her Own Words…
My cancer journey started before I was diagnosed myself. I watched my mom fight for her life with Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer. At the age of 21 I saw and heard doctors dismiss the pain she was in. Which I now realize is typical for doctors to dismiss the pain and symptoms of Black women. She was diagnosed a year after she first voiced her concern for pain and symptoms.
I had always devoted my life to staying as healthy as possible. I thought I had a shadow over me that I learned to dismantle by doing all the right things (eating right, regular doctor visits, and exercise). So when I came back from a run, I never expected to find a lump in my breast.
It was September 2015. I got ready to hop in the shower and my hand rubbed past my breast. I found a lump & I got in the shower and tried to rub it away, but in my heart I knew that day I had Breast Cancer. While in the shower which felt like an eternity I cried & cried. So I immediately started fighting and advocating for myself.
From there on it has been a struggle. I was questioned, why do I need a mammogram at 36, and I told them to ask the lump in my breast that question. Who would think that someone would have to struggle to just be heard, but this was not new to me. It just didn’t seem real. I was reliving my mom’s story. Immediately after my testing I was told it was cancer, but how since no one in my family had breast cancer. Unfortunately the fact that my mom passed away at an early age from pancreatic cancer that put me at risk. So the doctors wanted to be very aggressive with me.
It has been a lonely road. If cancer taught me one thing its that if you dont fight to get throught it everyday, no one can do it for you. I learned to ask questions and not care how many times I asked until I got an answer that was something I could understand. I also learned to do my research and “HW” so I could stay a head of the game and not just follow what a doctor said because as I already knew, not all doctors have your best interest at heart or see me as a black woman.
I went through 16 rounds of chemo ACT and many hospital visits in between because my body couldn’t take it. They changed from Taxol to Taxotere and had to send my case to the tumor board to see if I could safely continue but I couldn’t. I was disappointed. I thought I had failed myself by not completing. I also thought this would increase the chances of my cancer return. At the end of chemo I rang that bell alone. After that I completed 25 rounds of radiation and I banged that gong alone at the end. Which was difficult as I saw how people had family and support and that made me question myself a lot.
Get To Know Shoni…
What has been the most challenging part of your journey?
I prefer you call it a season because seasons come and go it felt long like a journey would. But also journey makes it sound like an adventure this is a trip I never wanted goon and would never like to revisit. However that’s something I have no control of. The most challenging part being a young black women who wasn’t seen. I saw no one that looked like me or who could relate to me. Also not having the support of family like they show on tv. They make you believe when family and friends here cancer they rally around you. I was all alone and it was scary. Not everyone has caregivers or support and that’s something even medical staff doesn’t get. They actually made me feel worst then making me feel powerful or strong for doing what I had to do alone.
What is your superpower?
No matter what I’ve been through I keep fighting. I get knocked down and get back up each time. I have the ability to overcome all the obstacles life keeps throwing my way. I could curl up in a ball or lay down and play dead but I fight because I’ve lost so many important people in my life especially my lady(mom) who give me a reason to fight.
What is your theme song?
What is your favorite movie?
The muppets take manhattan (it was the first movie I went to see in the movie theaters with my mom as a kid) I can recite the whole movie and sing every song.
What your spirit animal?
A Sloth. They take their time, live long lives, and always have a smile on their faces.
What is your favorite food?
The first thing I look at when deciding to eat somewhere is dessert chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, caramel if it’s topped with whipped cream or ice cream I want it all.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Two places: the rainforests in Costa Rica and Africa.
What is your favorite quote?
What I want all breast cancer patients to know…
You have a voice. If you are not ok with something, say something. No matter your race age or socioeconomic status, you should be treated the same as any and everyone else. Because while going through treatment I was underinsured. I at first allowed a lot to slip under the rug but I knew the treatment I was receiving was not like my others because I started speaking to other women I found in the community. Also if you do have family designate someone to help you fight if need be because I know how draining it was for me if I had someone to fight the injustices going on I would have had more energy during and after treatment. Also do not let cancer take you away. Don’t let it steal your smile, laugh or joy. Keep finding what makes you happy no matter what. Metastatic, triple negative, triple positive, and those with mutations are monitored. With ER/ PR + Her2-we just wait and see. That is so nerve wracking. It’s not that I want extra doctor visits or more scans but I want the same reassurance. I have to fight to get a scan and have had to fight doctors to understand more can be done, but because they have protocols I feel like a sitting duck. Not that I want any thing else to happen I just want to feel like I’m being taken care of. My cancer was aggressive, maybe not as aggressive as others but I’m an individual and I don’t need to be put in the box of what a hospitals protocols are. I really want the community to recognize a lot of men and women get cancer and have no idea why. I had no genetic mutation. We need to come up with a day to recognize that the same way we have a week for hereditary cancer, a day for previvors, triple negative and MBC. All people go through cancer should be recognized not just on survivors day which is for all survivors. We also need to focus on the survivorship portion, more mental health, and stop telling patients to find the “new you.” I’m the same person that evolved, I’m not new. Everyone changes; cancer just forces you to change at a quicker rate.
— Shoni Brown