Cancer Warrior Donna May

My name is Donna May. I am 49 years old. I am a mom, wife, daughter, aunt, friend and also, I am a 4x cancer survivor. 

In 1998, I was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer when I was 28 years old. On December 26, 1997, I felt a lump in my right breast. Because I was in charge of the mammography van at my job as a Human Resources Assistant, I read all the pamphlets to learn how to help everyone who would participate in the service. Little did I know I would need that same exact help for myself. When I called my doctor's office to report the lump and make an appointment, they refused to allow me to make an appointment. They stated because of my age, I had to wait until my period came because my breast was probably just 'lumpy' due to my menstrual cycle. In January 1998, my period came and went but the lump in my right breast remained.  I was finally granted an appointment on a Monday. The doctor tried to aspirate the lump but to no avail. I knew something was wrong when I saw her face. She asked me if I had any plans that afternoon and I told her I was going on a job interview for a promotion. She told me I'd have to reschedule it because I needed to get an ultrasound that afternoon.  When the ultrasound was over, the doctor who performed told me he wasn't sure what the mass in my breast was but that it would need to be removed immediately. By Wednesday that same week, I was meeting with a surgeon and that Friday, I was having a lumpectomy and bilateral dissection. The results came back as Stage I, Triple Negative Breast Cancer. I underwent chemotherapy (cytosine-Adriamycin) and radiation therapy. My daughter was three (3) years old at the time.  In 2002, I was blessed to have my son.

In 2013, I had a throat pain that wouldn't go away, no matter how many medicines the doctor put me on. As I was feeling my throat one day, I felt a lump in my throat. Instantly I knew something was wrong. I told my doctor my medical history and she told me that it was nothing and that I just needed to exercise and lose weight using the diet regimen she was selling at the time. I insisted on getting an ultrasound. The results came back that there was a mass in my throat that needed to be removed immediately. When the biopsy was done, I was initially told that the lump was benign. I was ecstatic until I received a call three (3) days later telling me it was misdiagnosed and that it was actually a Stage I throat cancer. I then received a call a week later telling me that I did have cancer again but the diagnosis was incorrect. The final diagnosis was a rare form of salivary gland cancer that generally only white males, over the age of 65, who are heavy smokers, get.  I am none of those things. The cancer went through one of my salivary glands on the right side and one of my nerves. Both the salivary gland and nerve were removed. I underwent radiation therapy where my head and neck were securely locked down to the table every day I underwent treatment. I was, and still is, one of the most traumatic things I experienced.

In 2014 and 2015, I felt another lump in my right breast. My oncology surgeon at the time kept telling me she didn't see anything and that she'd just 'keep an eye on it'. In September 2015, I became fed up with the answer and knowing what I knew previously, I made myself an appointment at a 3-D mammography clinic to get a second opinion. The results came back that there was definitely a lump in my right breast again. I had another lumpectomy in my right breast and the results came back as cancer. My oncologist at the time told me I should just have the right breast removed and not both because the left wasn't impacted. I insisted and had to sign documentation to have a bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction. In January 2016, after examination of both removed breast, the results came back that I had estrogen positive in my right breast.  Upon further examination of the left breast that I insisted they remove, they found another lump.I was diagnosed with fourth cancer, DCIS, in my left breast. I was initially put on hormone therapy but because my body doesn't tolerate medicines beyond an ibuprophen 800, I needed to have a hysterectomy to reduce the estrogen in my body. 

All of my genetic testing came back negative. I recently found out my biological father's family has had nine (9) family members, both female and male, diagnosed or die of different forms of cancer. f I can share one thing it is to please get to know your body well and intimate enough to become your own health advocate. When you know something isn't right, do not accept anything less than a firm and medically validated answer on what you are experiencing. Get a second, third, or even fourth opinion, if you must. No one knows you like you know you.My kids are now 23 and16, I’ve been married for almost 25 years, my fight with the after effects of cancer surgeries and treatments is daily. My family is worth it. I am worth it 

I hope this can help someone.

In Love and Light,

Donna May - Survivor and Thriver! 

Sara Krish