Around the age of 24, most think it is a time when youth is leaving and some have just finished college, started their forever career, maybe got married, or were just feeling like their adult lives have begun, but not for Amber Maynard.
Maynard had been married not quite a year, and instead of beginning her adult life, she was plunged right in and immediately became a full fledged adult. Unfortunately, she got the news that no one wants to hear, she was diagnosed with Stage-2 breast cancer.
Having been married just close to a year, and enjoying her married life, her husband first noticed the lump. She didn’t think anything of it, but he made her go to the doctor and of course, they didn’t think it was anything.
But Maynard said, “I went through the process of having an ultrasound and they couldn’t figure out what it was, and then I had a mammogram and it came back inconclusive. They then put me in touch with Dr. Scarpinato, he kind of figured it was a tumor, but thought it was benign, so he went ahead and did the biopsy the same day he saw me.
”That was on a Friday, then my appointment was like a Monday or Tuesday. And he assured me, you know you are young , it’s nothing and of course, I’m panicking the whole time and by the time of the appointment, I had finally convinced myself it was nothing, and then of course it was something. He diagnosed me with stage-2 breast cancer.”
The Maynard’s had to set up a plan and had to do so fairly quickly, because Scarpinato said with her age and with much older people, it spreads quickly. He said they were kind of concerned because it was five centimeters. It was approximately ‘the size of a golf ball’. And she said that’s why it was considered Stage 2 and so they were kind of concerned with it.
They actually went a different route. They started her right away with chemotherapy, instead of doing surgery.
“At the end of that week, I had my port put in and started my chemo the next day,” Maynard said. “I had to do five rounds of chemotherapy and it was very strong therapy and I had to have it once every three weeks, because I would be sick about a week and a half and then better for a week and a half and then the cycle would start all over again.
I was only supposed to have four rounds but then, at the end of December, at the end of my last treatment, the oncologist at the time, he wanted me to have another round, which I was very upset about. He wanted me to have a couple more, but I convinced him into one more round. So in January, we had one more… right after I had my last chemotherapy, about a week after that treatment, I actually ended up in the hospital, because I ended up with a severe mastoid infection behind my ear. And where my immune system was susceptible and as with any small infection, you’re at risk, So, I ended up in the hospital and while I was in the hospital, I ended up with a blood clot that started at my port and went down to my whole right arm. And that, was a result because of my port. They had to take the port out and I was done with the chemo.”
Once she went through chemo, her surgery was in February 2011. They then did a full lumpectomy.
Maynard then said, “I started my radiation that Summer, I had to have six weeks of radiation Monday thru Friday on the left side, and then I ended up having to have another surgery in 2012, because it just wasn’t healing right, I kept getting a hole under the side that had the tumor. It was just horrible.”
In the second surgery, the doctor had to take out the hole and he also went back and took out some scar tissue on both sides, but that was it. And she hasn’t had anything else since then.
“After everything was done, I had to put on Tomoxetin for five years and what that does is something with my estrogen. He wanted me to take it another five years and he was upset when I told him no. I am not a stubborn patient, but I was 24 when I was diagnosed and me and my husband hadn’t been married a year. We didn’t have kids and now I’m probably not ever gonna be able to have kids.”
After everything, Maynard had to have a mammogram every six months and as of last year, she just has to have a mammogram, once a year for the rest of her life.” I am still suppose to see and oncologist regularly. And because I am now considered high risk, of having breast cancer again or cervical cancer or ovarian cancer. And of course, now, my mammograms come back weird, because I have all that scar tissue. Sometimes they make me the day I go in for a mammogram, have to do another one the same day, because it comes back weird like. It is very nerve racking.”
One of the things Maynard kept saying over again, was that she would never wish this on anyone. “The chemo was probably the worst, I mean you go through depression and no matter how much support you have, it’s horrible. I lost all if my hair, I couldn’t work, because I worked with kids all the time. I worked at Holcomb Learning Center back then, where I worked with children who had autism and I couldn’t be around them, because of my immune system… my husband cut my hair for me before chemo, so it would be less traumatizing for me, but I still had depression. I had to have a chemo treatment on my birthday, it was horrible and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody!”
This is where your support is so important. Maynard’s family lives four hours away, she is from northern Ohio. “My mother-in-law, Belinda Evans, was a great support for me and I have great friends. My family would come down as much as they could at the time. I did have a good support system with my husband, Cameron, my mother-in-law, and father-in-law, Fred Evans plus, my mom, Kathy Jackson, and my brothers and sisters.”
Maynard discussed what young girls like she herself was, to think that it can’t happen to them, as she had to learn. “Do self checks, because obviously doctors are not going to recommend mammograms for them at a young age, because the age is usually 40 before they need them once a year. And also, if they notice anything unusual, don’t let it go, because it can be life changing, if my husband hadn’t have found it, I wouldn’t be here today.”
She said that at the age of 24, Dr. Scarpinato said at that time, that she was the youngest he had had. Now, he has had one younger, but that was seven years ago.
As for what how this might have affected her life, “The cancer did bring me and my husband closer together at the time, butI worried that I was a burden to him, because he had to give me shots in my stomach, I couldn’t do it and I had to have them for a long time. Now, you appreciate life a little more, I try before I get upset, to think, is this really a big deal?”
Maynard is now 31 and studying to be a licensed professional counselor and is in her last semester. She should be licensed in the state of Ohio by next year. She works at Shawnee Mental Health Center as a care coordinator right now, until she graduates in December and takes her test to become licensed.
Not anyone wants to hear the dreaded news that they have breast cancer or any cancer, but just like the Maynard’s found out, it can happen to anyone, at no matter what age or what time it is in your life. Amber Maynard can now say she has fought the good fight, and won! She will always have to be aware of unusual signs and things, but she can now continue her journey to have the career and life she wants.
Reach Kimberly Jenkins 740-353-3101 ext. 1928