Three years ago Ada Pham was in her elementary school classroom when she got a call from her doctor telling her she had breast cancer. Looking back, she laughs at the date: Friday, September 13, 2019. After a cyst on her right side prompted a mammogram, stage 0 breast cancer was found. The early stage meant she had time to consider her treatment options, but she endured countless tests and screenings in the weeks after diagnosis. Living in Hawaii at the time, Ada had to face those weeks alone because her family resides in California: “I had to face a lot of it on my own, which was hard.”
After consulting with her doctors, Ada decided on a double mastectomy, which meant no radiation or chemotherapy would be necessary. She notes how struck she was by her community’s love and support after surgery. Her brother came to stay to take care of her, but her work colleagues made sure she had grocery gift cards and services so she didn’t have to cook and friends (and even her students!) put together post-op baskets that included medical supplies and relaxation kits.
Ada was 38 years old at the time of her diagnosis and remembers how often people would reflect on how young she was to have breast cancer, but “a majority of friends who have had this disease are in their 20’s and 30’s.” Indeed, her support network included many friends from California who were facing the same diagnosis. It’s a testament to the proactive nature of women today, who are catching cancer earlier and openly sharing their experience with the world. Though at times Ada says she feels guilty for having the ‘easy cancer’ (no chemo or radiation), she knows her surgeries and diagnosis were a battle she is proud to celebrate on the runway: “It is overwhelming thinking of walking the runway, but I am really excited.” Even better? Ada moved back to California to be closer to family in October, which means they’ll all be there to cheer her on and we on the east coast know what a homecoming celebration it will be.