Northside Hospital - Mother stays positive in her battle with breast cancer

Mother stays positive in her battle with breast cancer

Posted on: August 08, 2019


Stacey Smith’s health journey started at age 36, while visiting breast care specialist Dr. Jennifer Amerson at Northside Hospital Atlanta for a breast reduction consultation, in March 2017. During the appointment, Stacey told Dr. Amerson of her mother and grandmother’s history with breast cancer and was promptly ordered a mammogram, biopsy and ultrasound.

On March 23, 2017, Stacey received news that she had 1B breast cancer in her left breast and was referred to oncologist Dr. Colleen Austin. Stacey was diagnosed with 90% aggressive triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). TNBC does not contain the three main receptors in most breast cancer growths, rendering common cancer drugs ineffective in treating the disease.

In April, Stacey began receiving chemotherapy with Atlanta Cancer Care at Northside Hospital Atlanta, and spent weeks in and out of the hospital. In July, she finished treatment with no signs of cancer. She had a double mastectomy on August 30 and followed up for reconstruction in September. Two months later, she received a final breast augmentation. Stacey was then told to continue her regular checkups with her physician team at Northside to monitor her health.

June 2018, Stacey met with Dr. Austin about a pain in her sternum and abdomen. After a biopsy, doctors told Stacey the cancer had metastasized, spreading to her liver, lungs and lymph nodes. She returned for treatment at Atlanta Cancer Care.

On Stacey’s first day back Atlanta Cancer Care, she met a nurse who was there for her first day of work as well.

When I got there, I broke down crying because I was there alone and it all became real. This was going to be my reality,” Stacey said. “This new nurse hugged me and cried with me. ‘This is my first day too,’ she said, ‘and we’re going to get through this together.”

Stacey cultivated many close relationships like this with Northside staff.

It was refreshing that we were all working through this together,” Stacey said. “I don’t know many doctors you can call in the middle of the night. But the doctors at Northside were always there, even when I wanted to give up. They gave me support.”

During a visit to Northside this May, staff found out about Stacey’s recent engagement and graduation from business school.

They didn’t have to, but the whole team came in and brought gifts.” Stacey said. “They just made me feel so special.”

Today, Stacey is battling cancer with a treatment plan of immunotherapy, chemo and monthly checkups with Dr. Austin.

At home, Stacey cares for her four children and is preparing for her wedding this fall. She encourages others around her and in similar situations to see the person beyond the cancer.

This diagnosis doesn’t define your life, and it’s not the end,” she said. “This can be a stepping stone for your future. Stay strong, stay positive and stay focused on getting healthy because there is life after this. And most importantly, you are not in this alone.”

*The health story shared here may portray atypical results of survival for this type of cancer, given its severity and stage. Atypical results are considered surviving a cancer that has less than a 50 percent five-year survival rate. Patients should consult an expert to discuss specific treatment plans and the possible outcomes before making medical decisions.

Filed under: Cancer, Patient Stories,


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