Diagnosed with Breast Cancer – A Mother’s Story
Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Patient Story
Pregnancy should be a time of excitement and happiness, so what happens if you are diagnosed with breast cancer simultaneously?
Brittney Tavares, 33, of Fairhaven, faced this unfortunate scenario just a year ago. Last October, when Brittney was seven months pregnant, she discovered a lump in her breast.
“I had pumped for my [now two-year-old] son,” she said. “So I thought, maybe it was just my milk supply coming in early, a clogged duct, or even just normal breast changes during pregnancy – not a big deal.”
Ignoring Her Symptoms
Brittney put aside getting it looked at for two months, but her symptoms began to worsen. The breast with the lump nearly doubled in size, hardened and pit around her areola. At that point, she knew something was not right.
The next day she had an appointment with her Obstetrician-gynecologist (OB/GYN), Dr. Uma Harinarayanan (Dr. Hari). Dr. Hari was immediately concerned about the lump and her high blood pressure. She ordered her an ultrasound and advised her to go directly to the hospital.
An Unexpected C-section
Brittney was ushered into having an emergency C-section that very same day. Then, the day after Brittney delivered her daughter, she received unsuspecting news.
“I had my ultrasound at the hospital the day after having my C-section, and that night, my entire care team agreed that I needed to be biopsied,” she said. “Ultimately, I had my daughter on a Tuesday, left the hospital on Friday. I had the biopsy on the following Monday, and by Wednesday (8 days after I had my daughter,) I got my official diagnosis. I had breast cancer.”
“I have Breast Cancer.”
Within two weeks of Brittney’s delivery, she started chemotherapy. When she attended her first oncology appointment with Dr. Susan Kim, Southcoast Health Oncology, she felt cared for and supported.
“Dr. Kim was extremely welcoming, amid Breast Cancer, a recent C-section, and a global pandemic, I had a lot of obstacles,” Brittney said. “She was kind to my family and me and made accommodations to make my visits more comfortable.”
Fighting Back: Chemotherapy and a Double Mastectomy
Brittney went through 16 rounds of IV chemotherapy and eight rounds of Taxol chemotherapy. As she got deeper into her treatment, her providers found cancer in her lymph nodes and started her on oral chemotherapy as well. Finally, she underwent a double mastectomy to clear any residual cancer.
“We were happy with the results,” Brittney said. “They were able to get clear margins around the tumor, and removing my breast didn’t mean anything to me if it meant overcoming cancer.”
A Support System Like No Other
Looking back, Brittney attributes her strength to her network of supporters. She shares her moving experience with her care team at Southcoast Health.
“Southcoast Health has been amazing. Between Dr. Susan Kim, Oncologist, Dr. Keren Braithwaite, Breast Surgeon, Dr. Tushar Kumar, Radiation Oncologist, and the Breast Center staff, they are all so good at what they do and so compassionate. Their bedside manner is exceptional,” she said. “I always trust my providers and wouldn’t change my care team for the world. They have my back. And I know they’re fighting just as hard as I am to beat cancer.”
She also credits her husband Ryan and dedicated loved ones for endless support, encouragement, and love. Brittney recalls ringing the bell during her last official chemotherapy treatment day – the Fairhaven Cancer Center parking lot was crammed with nearly 50 of her friends and family cheering her on.
“When they tell me I have an army, I truly do,” she said. “There’s not one person I’ve come across that hasn’t supported me fully.”
Brittney also recognizes how much strength her children have given her.
“They keep me going. I have no choice but to get up and be a mom and keep it moving despite my challenges,” she said. “There’s nothing I won’t do to be here for my children – there’s no chemo I won’t take, there are no side effects I won’t feel, there’s no surgery I won’t undergo. They’re everything to me.”
After Breast Cancer
Brittney’s next steps include continued oral chemotherapy, radiation, and then hopes of being deemed cancer-free. She also strongly advocates for research and for all women to be proactive in their own healthcare.
“Do your self-exams, make sure you’re allowing your doctors to do your physical exams, and be aware of any changes you may be experiencing. Being aware of my own body saved my life,” she said. “Also, get your mammograms. Regular screenings should be typically once a year.”
For Brittney, this past year has been an emotional and physical roller coaster. However, her steps to seek appropriate care have allowed her the most precious gift of all—time with her new daughter and family.
Southcoast Health provides leading-edge breast care and services to women across southeastern Massachusetts and parts of Rhode Island. Explore our offerings and locations, and contact your nearest Southcoast Health Breast Center at 855-749-3349 to schedule an appointment or schedule your yearly mammogram today.