Mother of four Deanna J. Ford got the double whammy of being diagnosed with stage IIB invasive ductal carcinoma at the age of 38 and being told her cancer was triple-negativeputting several common treatment options (such as tamoxifen, aromatase inhibitors, and Herceptin) out of her reach and leaving only chemotherapy. It all happened as her youngest child was about to turn two.
The diagnosis sent the Riverside, Calif., nurse reeling: "My family was stricken with heart disease, stroke, and hypertensionnever cancer. That just came out of nowhere." And Ford, who has an intensive care background and experience working with oncology patients, learned that the odds of having triple-negative breast cancer are higher for African-American women like herself.
Once she got past the shock of her diagnosis, Ford decided to advocate aggressively for herself and …
… went after the best care available.
"I just started asking: Who's the best oncologist? Who's the best surgeon? I really believe it helped me. I saw so many [other women with breast cancer] curl into their shell, not asking questions and not getting help."
… went online.
"I didn't know any of these women, I didn't have to see them, but I could go on there [to sites like Pink Link] and share what I was feeling."
… found support.
"Because I'm so independent, it was hard for me; I wouldn't ask anyone for help. But my community of coworkers and people from church saw beyond all that."
… leaned on her religious faith.
"I think that through it all, I just trusted Him to do whatever He was going to. Of course I kept wondering, why am I going through this? But I never doubted that He was going to do what was best for me."