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Women with breast cancer are usually diagnosed around the age of 50. Natoya Pascascio was diagnosed at 30-years-old. She was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, which has limited treatment options due to the absence of estrogen, progesterone and a protein called human epidermal growth factor. Chemotherapy and radiation are still effective but come with a load of painful side effects.
Though this diagnosis is terrifying, for Pascascio, 31, going through this experience has given her a new perspective on life. Read her story below.
How She Found Out
I was breastfeeding and felt a lump. At first, I thought it was a clogged milk duct so I kept trying to remove it but it wouldn’t budge. After a few weeks, I went to my doctor, who happened to be a person of color, and they said that I wouldn’t get a mammogram if I didn’t have a family history of breast cancer. I never had cancer in my family so it was strange but I trusted my doctor. Low and behold I get to the mammogram place and the technician said she can’t do it. I said but my doctor said I need to. She’s like you’re only 30 so she had to wait for the supervisor’s approval. After the mammogram, the supervisor came in the room and said I need a biopsy right away. After that I was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was surreal. I was only 30 with a five and one-year-old. I didn’t want to die.
What Chemotherapy Was Like
I received the intravenous chemotherapy AC-Taxol treatment and then a lumpectomy where all the lymph nodes were removed from my right side. Then I did 25 rounds of radiation and was burnt super bad. I’m currently on oral chemotherapy.
I was diagnosed with triple negative [breast cancer] so they threw everything at it. But me and my support system prayed that no harsh side effects would happen. I was very tired and I looked like “Little Bill’ but God spared me from the throwing up and all the other really harsh effects.
How Having Breast Cancer Affected Her Mental Health
Some days were better than others. My divorce was filed 12 days before my diagnosis, so navigating being a single mother, fighting breast cancer while in a pandemic has not been easy. It felt like I was being attacked on all sides.
Jesus is my source hope. He placed an amazing community in my life that truly helped me through it. My church family truly helped me through it, whether it was sending food for the kids and I to raising money for us. And always willing to be there in prayer. Leaning on Jesus has helped me deal with my mental state as well as my physical. My prayer partner Shana would also pray with me every Monday and a deaconess from my church who also survived breast cancer was walking with my on this journey. I also have an amazing therapist.
What She Learned About Herself Through This Journey
I learned that it’s okay to lean on others. As a Black woman it’s pretty much instilled that you have to do it all but that’s not the case. I also learned that I am stronger than I thought. This journey is not for the weak and I’m making it look effortless.
How Breast Cancer Has Changed Her Life
I know it might be weird to say but my life has been better. No I don’t want cancer or to have to go through treatments and the never ending appointments but I am thankful I was able to feel loved. I felt unloved and unwanted for so many years and my village really showed me it was not that case. Also, the people who wanted ill for me revealed themselves. So many things happened in the span of a few months that has made my life so much better that it’s no question that God has been working on me and I am thankful that through this experience He will be glorified.