Just shy of turning 40, Amy Kemeza was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had felt a lump that continued to grow and a mammogram confirmed two large tumors in her lymph nodes. She went on to receive 20 weeks of chemotherapy and one round of immunotherapy. The treatment proved grueling and the side effects deeply challenging. She had rashes and developed inflammatory arthritis that meant getting out of the bed or using the bathroom was nearly impossible. The treatment, however, proved worth it in the end because her scans revealed no cancer, which meant she was able to proceed with a lumpectomy, instead of a mastectomy. Pathology results showed no evidence of disease.
Amy completed treatment in September of 2022. Reflecting on that time, she is grateful her daughter was only two when she was diagnosed. Though the treatment made parenting difficult, her daughter has barely any memory of what her mother went through. It does however evoke some sadness about growing her family: “I was emotional because we chose not to do egg retrieval and I was also kind of grieving not having another child. It felt like that was decided for me.”
Support from her community helped. Her daughter’s school organized a meal train and she joined a monthly MGH support group: “a lot of days I don’t think about breast cancer, but then it sort of creeps in because I am still dealing with side affects from treatment.” The entire experience has helped her to approach life with a ‘don’t sweat the small stuff’ attitude, but she is realistic about the fact that the fear of recurrence is very prevalent, especially because she remains baffled, with no family history, why this diagnosis happened to her.
In all, Amy remains so grateful for her team at MGH and it’s her biggest advice to those newly diagnosed is to “trust your doctors and avoid googling things. Accept help when offered, but also know what kind of help will be most essential to you.”