Amanda: Battling Breast Cancer

Photos and Story by Bobby Curtis

 

When Amanda Shaklee found a lump in her left breast, she didn’t think much of it. She was only 23 and from her knowledge, lumps at her age were unheard of. A close friend was worried about her and convinced Shaklee to see a doctor as soon as possible. Last February she was diagnosed with grade three breast cancer.

According to Oxford Journals, 95 percent of new cases of breast cancer occur in women 40 years of age and older. Girls between the ages of 20-24 have about a 1.5 in 100,000 chance of getting breast cancer. Up to 10 percent of breast cancers are thought to be hereditary according to Breastcancer.org. The average woman in the United States has about a 1 in 8 chance of getting breast cancer. So if you have the gene, then your chances get even higher.

Shaklee’s case is different, not just because she is so young, but because she does not carry a breast cancer causing gene. When Shaklee went in to get checked, the doctor had to have a conference to see if she could get a mammogram. After the results of an ultrasound, she heard the devastating news.

“When they first told me, I thought it was joke or something. I didn’t think it was real,” Shaklee says. “Telling my mom was probably one of the hardest things to do, because to tell someone that their daughter has breast cancer at 23 is not the easiest thing to do. She left work and ran up to me, hugged me and just cried. It was really hard.”

There have been only a few studies of breast cancer on women 25 and younger because the disease is so rare in that age range, according to Oxford Journals. The prognosis and survival of younger women with breast cancer remains unclear. Still, the estimated numbers of new breast cancer cases in the United States for 2012 is about 226,000. About 40,000 die each year from breast cancer, according to cancer.org.

Shaklee was unfortunately one of the 226,000, but she’s now in remission. A 21-week course of intense chemotherapy reduced the size of her tumor. After removing the tumore and having a double mastectomy, Shaklee continued chemotherapy for another six months. She has been a strong, young woman through all of this. She stays positive and always has a huge smile on her face.

“You got to think about your life. You got to think about your future,” Shaklee says.

Shaklee moved to Oxnard when she was 9 years old and currently lives at home with her parents. She graduated from Pacifica High School in 2006 and works on the Naval Base Gateway Inn and Suites in Port Hueneme. She was on medical leave for almost a year because of the intense chemotherapy.

“You think about your loved ones, and how they feel, and if you stay positive for them, they become stronger for you. So as long as you stay positive, it definitely helps,” Shaklee says.