Name: Amy Doman Castilla
Age at Enrollment: 36
Major: Triple Negative Breast Cancer with BRCA 2 Gene/1st Stage
What were the primary symptoms you experienced prior to diagnosis? I was having some soreness under my left breast where the under wire of my bra lays.
What symptom(s) lead you to go to the doctor? I started to just feel around the area one night and felt a small lump. My gut said get it checked right away.
Courses completed: I had a bi-lateral mastectomy with tissue expanders, 4 rounds of ACT and 4 rounds of Taxol, physical therapy for cording, Reconstruction surgery, oophorectomy, and then 3 ½ years removal and replacement of implants.
What was your hardest moment (or moments) and how did you you get through it/them? My hardest moments were right after surgery (during home recovery). The medication for pain caused me to be a zombie and have no control, so I stopped taking the medication. During chemo, when I was just so sick or in such pain that I felt like I did not want to wake up, I just kept praying to please take away the feelings that I was having- let me be able to get through it. I was lucky to wake up the next day without the previous day's feelings. When I think "what if it comes back?" I just try to think happy things. I watch something funny, which helps in any bad moment because laughter helps. I try to keep busy and do fun things.
Any helpful (tangible) tips or tricks you discovered for dealing with your symptoms and/or cancer? Eat mints before you start your chemo treatments. It helps take away the taste and smell. If you get pain from chemo, use Claritin- it helps relieve the pain. Use Biotene mouth wash and toothpaste for dry mouth. Try lemon juice. Make sure you are getting a lot of fluids. Try popsicles or tea. Use coconut oil for dryness. Get tons of rest. Try massage and acupuncture which helps with pain and hot flashes. Search for all resources - there is a lot of free help out there.
How did your family and friends respond? Shocked but very supportive and there when I needed them.
How did/do you find joy during this experience? I tried to just act like it was nothing, like I was not sick and did not like to talk about it during my treatments. I just started to enjoy life and do things that I never did before - just have fun. I joined support groups where I met so many amazing people dealing with the same thing and it helped me start to help others.
Did you learn anything about yourself? If so, what was it? Yes, I learned how strong of a person and mother I am. I realized how I was living my life in not such a positive way. After this I learned to be positive, even in bad moments. We can only control our actions. If we keep thinking bad or negative, it attracts this. I started to be more positive and things started to get better. I learned to be more open and outgoing, along with trying to do new things.