Three-time challenger and winner
Editor’s Note: Amy Turek of Howland shares her breast cancer journey in her own words.
HOWLAND — I am a three-time Stage 4 breast cancer survivor.
By the power of prayer, the amazing grace and healing power of God, a wonderful supportive husband, family, friends and great doctors, I can sit here and tell you that cancer has tried many, many times to knock me down, but unfortunately for cancer, it has picked the wrong girl!
I am currently 37, and had a double mastectomy and lymph nodes removed at the time of first being diagnosed in 2009 at the age of 28. I had extensive rounds of chemotherapy. I got treated at St. Joseph Warren Hospital Cancer Center by not only a wonderful doctor but also a wonderful person, Dr. Antoine Chahine.
I was clear for a while, then in 2013, I found out my breast cancer had come back to my lungs and liver. Back into chemotherapy we go…
I got that under control and was in the clear again. Then in 2016, after experiencing some flashing in my eye, headaches, numbness / tingling in my face and arm, and slurred speech, I found out it had spread to my brain. I had three lesions on my brain.
I very quickly was sent to Cleveland Clinic, where I received gamma knife radiation on the brain, which worked wonderfully. One lesion disappeared completely and the other two shrank a great deal. The gamma knife was successful.
Then a PET scan showed a spot on the liver once again, so a new chemotherapy was started, and it took that spot away. I currently remain on that chemotherapy.
An MRI of my brain had shown that one of the lesions was slightly growing, so I had a brain surgery called laser ablation done in February at the Cleveland Clinic. It was once again a success and through a biopsy of that spot, it showed it was not growing due to cancer regrowth but due to scar tissue forming in that area as a side effect of the gamma knife radiation I had done.
As a side effect of the laser ablation surgery I had lost the movement and sensation in my left arm and hand. I am a hairdresser in Warren, so it’s pretty important to have use and function of both hands and arms. Four weeks after surgery, I started occupational therapy and was very successful with that. I regained full use of my arm and hand, and although the sensation is not the same, I am able to have use of my arm and hand after a very long five months.
Cancer will not define who I am. It will not weaken my faith. It will not make me weak and it will not destroy me. I am a child of God and this journey has only made me stronger … stronger in my faith, in my ability to fight, and strong enough to put my story out there so other women going through the same thing can know that they can do it too.
Because of my experience, I have been to reach out and help others. I would love to inspire and bring hope at any and all women going through breast cancer.
If I can give help to someone else, then going through it is well worth it. If that’s my purpose in life, that’s my purpose in life.
Grab hold of the good lord and stay faithful, positive, grounded and firm in your fight. Every day is a blessing. Know that you can do this battle. Create your new normal and know that things may not be perfect or the way it used to be but it can still be normal.
I will be on chemotherapy indefinitely, but I am alive, living a full healthy happy life. I am a breast cancer survivor, not a breast cancer victim. Don’t let cancer define who you are or how you live your life.
May God bless every one who is fighting this battle, and may those be honored who have lost the battle. Always know with and through God, all things are possible. That is the only reason I am here to tell my story.