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HomeCancer Survivor StoriesSamantha McDevitt (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Samantha McDevitt (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Samantha McDevitt (Breast Cancer Survivor)

Symptoms and diagnosis

I am about to be 32 this month, and I was diagnosed with stage three inflammatory breast cancer. One day, I was just putting on deodorant, and I noticed a pain in my armpit. Probably two days later, I had some pain in my lower arm. But it felt like I had been working out. So I didn’t really think too much of it. And within a day, it all happened over the course of like four days. While these symptoms lasted for like a day, I noticed that my right breast, which is the one that has cancer, went down, and tripled in size compared to my left. This was strange. Then I went to the gynaecologist. 

They suggested an ultrasound because she had never seen something like that. I mean, my breast was that big. So I got an ultrasound and a mammogram. And then they did a biopsy. Based on the results of the mammogram and ultrasound it was found that I had inflammatory breast cancer. It’s one of the rarest breast cancers. Only one to 5% of breast cancers diagnosed are actually inflammatory. And, like I was gonna say more than anything, it’s not just a bump, or like a lump. Then I set up an appointment with an oncologist.

My first reaction after hearing the news

I was diagnosed in May, 2021. It’s now the beginning of November, I think it definitely took a couple of weeks, maybe even months before I even registered what was happening. Before I even knew for sure if I had cancer, I was already researching oncologists and surgeons just in case because I wanted to be prepared. So I would say just spacing, it was just going to see doctors immediately. I have had six chemotherapy treatments. And I had to freeze my eggs because I stand a chance of not being fertile later in life going through menopause. And I have a mastectomy next week.

Coping with cancer

I’ve been trying to like, document it by video just so I have my own reference later in life. So that for me is coping because I am expressing my emotions through a video that I’ve been making. No one tells you how difficult it’s going to be when you start to lose your hair. Or, not being able to sleep at night because your body is so uncomfortable. Not even about the side effects of chemo and cancer. You just have cancer, there’s so much more to it. And I think that’s the most difficult part. Everyone needs some support system. Without a support system, we know we won’t be able to make it. 

Support group/caregiver

I have a very close friend who was my support system. I’ve been very open to making videos. It’s interesting to see, as a community, how people can come together and be supportive of you. And that has been very uplifting for me.

Side effects 

My entire body has been itching since I was diagnosed. And I’ve seen so many doctors and they just say that it’s a residual of inflammatory breast cancer rashes, itching over your whole body, nothing makes it go away. It’s not fun.

Changes in lifestyle

I’ve tried to change my diet a bit, I cut out caffeine, also red meat, and started eating a little bit more vegetables. I just cut out sugar. I used to eat a lot of sweets. So I tried to cut that out.

Life lessons that cancer gave me

It is important to know your body more than anything. If something feels different, like in my case, like, it was unusual for my armpit to be sore, it was unusual for my breasts to be swollen so much. And had I not acted on that when I did, especially with inflammatory breast cancer, it spreads so quickly. So I could have gone from stage three to stage four within weeks. So I think it’s just important to know your body. Examine yourself, if you see anything different get it checked out.

I realised you can have a lot more inner strength than you saw. I also realise what relationships are really important, and what you should really put energy into. Because when you have cancer, and you’re going through chemo, you don’t have the energy to entertain them. So it really kind of highlights those, which is good, because a lot of people spend too much time and energy on people and things that just aren’t important. 

Caregivers/Support group

I didn’t really have any caregivers. I’ve continued life pretty much as best I can on my own. After chemo, I’d have some family bring over meals just because I was so tired. But outside of that, I’ve kind of just handled everything on my own.

The turning point of my life

This has been a real turning point in my life. I think it’s been very eye-opening because I was very healthy and I didn’t expect anything like that. It makes me appreciate life a little bit more and dwell less on the negative. There’s a lot of negativity right now going on in the world. And I just try to not focus on it as much because life is much too precious for that.

Message for other cancer patients

My message would be don’t give up. Because I know it’s kind of corny but everything happens for a reason. And I truly believe that even in the worst circumstances that things happen for some reason. So try to find strength in that. This doesn’t have to be forever, and people before me have said that cancer changes you, and I agree with that. Cancer does change you but doesn’t have to change you in an awful way. You can find some sort of beauty in it.

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