Latoya Malcolm

Latoya Malcolm Image

I distinctly remember the Friday afternoon in late October 2021 when my primary care physician told me over the phone, “your breast biopsy
results show signs of malignant cells.” I automatically went into a state of shock and confusion: What? How? But I’m too young to have
breast cancer! I immediately called my mother to give her the news, and then I cried. I spent the weekend in disbelief.

A few weeks before I had felt a pain in my left breast. I rubbed the spot and felt a tiny bump, similar to the size of a pea. I remember turning to
my partner and asking if he ever felt this before. He had not. I let it go by for a week, thinking it was hormonal. A week went by with no changes,
so I decided to say something to my co-worker. She implored me to call my doctor and even stood beside me while I made the call and got the
appointment. Thankfully, my doctor listened to me and sent me to do a mammogram and ultrasound – my first ever – at age 36!

Four days after that dreadful phone call, my mom and I got confirmation from the breast surgeon that I had HR+, Her2- breast cancer. I would
need further scans to determine the extent of my cancer. I was scheduled to get my scan results and meet with my medical oncologist for the first time on my 37th birthday. As my mom and I sat in the room waiting for the medical oncologist to provide the results, my surgeon called to inform me that the new testing
results had shown possible additional tumors in my right breast, and I would need further testing. As my mom and I tried to wrap our brains
around this new information, the medical oncologist came in and gave us the results of the scans and possible treatment plans. My mom sat in a
chair in the corner, crying and giving praise to God at the news that my cancer had no distant spread. I was still in a daze, still in shock, still trying
to process everything I had learned in the past week and a half, but I nodded, asked questions and took notes. We left the doctor’s office more confident and reassured than when we had entered. I messaged my dad and siblings – who had been nervous, crying wrecks – as well as a few friends and family members with the new information and went to work.

Since my diagnosis, my life has been forever changed! I have undergone surgery for a double mastectomy, fertility treatments, 16 rounds of chemotherapy, lost my precious locks, completed breast reconstruction surgery, occupational therapy, underwent several other medical procedures, and endured over 30
rounds of radiation on both sides. It has been taxing on my body to say the least. The pain and fatigue I have experienced have been so severe that countless times I would cry out in pain when I could not independently pick my head up to drink water or walk to the bathroom without assistance. With COVID-19 and my
being immunocompromised, I could not have visitors. My mother was left to be my primary caretaker. She gave up her job to ensure that I always had someone on hand to care for me.

Cancer took away my freedom of movement, my independence, my educational and professional plans, and my income. As an educator, one of the hardest tasks was telling my students that I was diagnosed with cancer and that I had to temporarily leave them. There were plenty of tears shed that day. Because of my cancer treatment, I have missed weddings, graduation ceremonies, close family funerals, and loads of other events that were meaningful and special to me. Yet, I am
still here!!!

I tell everyone that I’m not sure why I was given this journey, but it was given for a purpose! I am still standing, and I pray I remain cancer free
and live a long, purposeful, happy life.
Cancer is tough, but I am tougher!