My Experience With Breast Cancer, At Age 27

by | May 29, 2023 | Physical Health

Model Amber Denae Wright tells about her experience with breast cancer, having been diagnosed at the age of 27.

Discovering a lump

In March of 2020, literally two weeks before we went into hard lockdown, I got out of the shower one evening and I felt this really large lump on the right side of my breast. I hadn’t noticed it before. I was shocked by how big it was. It was on the right-hand side and thankfully close to the surface.

As a teenager, I had been diagnosed with fibroadenomas, which are non-cancerous lumps that are quite common in young women. When I felt the lump, I thought that’s what it was. I had been told that they can grow and change. Sometimes, they need to be removed. But knowing that I didn’t want foreign things in my body, I immediately phoned my gynae and booked an appointment.

That appointment got cancelled because we then went into a hard lockdown. Throughout that time, I had this thing constantly bothering me. I was very aware of it the whole time. It was causing a lot of pain. It was right where your bra wire catches. I fully believed that it was a fibroadenoma. I never even for one second imagined the big C word.

The diagnosis

When I was referred to a breast surgeon, he examined me and said that the way it felt and moved felt just like a fibroadenoma. He however recommended not going in for the surgery immediately, given the risks of contracting COVID in the hospital. I took that recommendation and another two months went by. Eventually, it caused me a lot of pain. I was struggling to sleep at night and struggling to complete workouts with my sports bra catching it. I eventually elected to do the surgery in August, five months after finding the lump.

They removed the lump and sent it away for testing. A week later, I went back for a follow-up appointment. Everything felt very normal but then he called me into his office and started by asking me when I had found this lump. He said I’d shocked them all because, as it turned out, the lump was cancerous.

I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live. They were words I never ever, even for one second, imagined hearing, having breast cancer at age 27. The doctor immediately started to go through my treatment plan, the type of diagnosis it was, and the rest. I felt like I was watching this whole scene play out like I was outside of my body because it was too much. And then he started to talk about all of the treatments and he said the words ‘chemotherapy’. Once he said those words I was like, ‘This is actually real’. And I immediately just started to cry. I was completely overwhelmed.

The treatment

From that point on I was catapulted into 1001 different appointments, from scans to blood tests. I went straight from there for an ultrasound and the next day, I met with my oncologist.

Given that my husband Nick and I don’t have kids yet, our first port of call was to preserve my fertility (which can be affected by chemotherapy). We did fertility treatment and froze embryos. This involved hormone injections, regular scans at a fertility facility and the harvesting of my eggs. It was the craziest few weeks of my life. Once the embryos were frozen, it was time to start chemotherapy. 

My chemotherapy treatment was 16 rounds, over five months. Two weeks after my first chemo session, my hair started to fall out. It was one of my biggest fears. Every day I’d wake up, there was more hair on my pillow and more hair on my floor and every coat that I wore. It was all over me and it became very overwhelming.

Eventually, it got to the point where my husband had to help me shave it off. It was a moment I never pictured going through in my life.

amber wright in treatment for breast cancer at age 27
Amber in treatment

My life with breast cancer

Initially, I was determined to keep up with everything I had been doing: working full-time, doing workouts and staying healthy. I had started doing Raise the Barre, an online barre class, during the lockdown. Before I’d gone in for surgery I was literally feeling my strongest, fittest, healthiest self. One of the toughest things was watching that slowly slip away as I got weaker and wasn’t able to train as much.

During chemotherapy, for the first couple of weeks, when I still had energy, I was trying to train as much as I could. But chemo weakens you over time. I had debilitating headaches and couldn’t take too many painkillers because my organs were already under so much strain from the chemo. At about two or three o’clock, on some days, I would just crash and I literally felt like I couldn’t keep my head up. Because of all this, I decided to leave my job and focus on fighting the cancer.

I also sought out therapy to help me maintain a positive mental state throughout. That helped me a lot because there are a lot of dark, hard thoughts that you don’t want to burden other people with.

amber wright in treatment for breast cancer at age 27
Amber ringing the bell after the last chemo treatment

My surgery

After chemo was done it was time for surgery. Because I didn’t test positive for any of the cancer gene mutations, I elected for a lumpectomy, where the lump and surrounding tissue were removed. When they operated on me the first time to remove the lump, they were operating as if it wasn’t cancer, so they didn’t do what they would normally do, which is cut around it and take all the tissue and the tumour out.

They ended up taking out a lot of tissue and had to reduce the left breast to match the right. It ended up being a massive surgery. I also underwent 5 weeks of daily radiation and I am currently on 5 years of hormone treatment (Tamoxifen and Zolodex).

Finding remission

In October 2021, after all my active treatment was completed, I had an MRI which was all clear and confirmed that I was in remission. During my cancer journey, I felt like I was in survival mode, trying to get through every single day, and so when all of my treatment was done, I had a lot of emotions to work through and mental healing to do.

Although my life looks very different now and although I will need to go for regular check-ups and scans for the rest of my life, and although I have needed to make changes and sacrifices to my lifestyle, there has been so much good that has come from this difficult journey. It made me a better person and helped me to become more confident in who I am and it made me realise how much I have to be grateful for.  

I have been given a fresh start and I now know that I can do and be whatever I want to be because I proved to myself and everyone around me how strong I am. I am so grateful for my life and the people I have been blessed with  

I’ve really tried to embrace this new version of myself and navigate all that comes with the cancer aftermath. My life is different, but it’s beautiful and I’m so blessed to be here.

Amber now, cancer-free

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