‘I’m gonna fight this.’ Woman describes her breast cancer journey

One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Some women know they’re at risk.
Published: Oct. 27, 2021 at 9:37 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - One in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. Some women know they’re at risk.

But as Daphne Davis says, it doesn’t stop that sinking feeling when you hear that diagnosis.

In August 2020, she was diagnosed with Triple Negative Metaplastic Carcinoma.

It’s often just called triple-negative breast cancer. Black women are twice as likely as white women to be diagnosed with it. They’re about 30 percent more likely to die from it. A scary thought - as she was hearing that diagnosis from the first time. But she wants her story to be a reminder to other women to do self-checks and stay positive.

Jamie: How did it first happen? Were you self-checking? Were you just having a regular mammogram? What happened?

Daphne: I always self-check always. Every year, you know. Last year, I had my mammogram scheduled for August 28. But on July 28, I woke up, and nd normally I’m the first one up out of the bed, but my husband was that particular morning. And it was just like, God just put my hand there. Because I was still laying in a bed and it was just like this urge to need to touch right here. Even though I had done my own self-breast exam that Saturday, this was Thursday.

Jamie: So everything’s fine on Saturday?

Daphne: Everything was fine on Saturday. And on Thursday, I felt something. So at first, I sat up and I was like, Okay, what was that? You know? And I was like, Okay, I’ve been working out and going into CrossFit. I know, we did chest stuff. I was just assisting, you know, pool muscle. So I ran into the bathroom. And I told my husband, I said, feel right here. So do you feel that? And he was like, Yeah, I feel that and I was like, okay, so I went back, I got my phone, I immediately started, you know, sending a message via My Chart to my doctor to say, Hey, this is what I found. What do I do from here? You know, I have a mammogram scheduled for next month. What are we going to do? And he sent back immediately to say, you know, I’m going to set you up for a diagnostic mammogram immediately. We’re not going to wait. And I’m thankful that he did. And that next day that I went, and they told me, you know, once I did the mammogram that I had breast cancer.

Jamie: It’s the most awful word in the language, isn’t it?

Daphne: It really is. It really is.

Jamie: Is there that moment where you’re like, there’s obviously the shock, and you’re dealing with it, you say you’re telling your husband for the first time this news?

Daphne: Yeah.

Jamie: But then it becomes that ‘No, no, I’m gonna beat this thing. And I’m gonna fight this.’

Daphne: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. And I’m one that likes to take selfies a lot. And I’m always smiling. And I had told myself that I was going to continue to do that, through this journey. Because I felt like, the attitude was 100% of how I was going to beat this cancer. And that’s what I did. I took pictures, and I still kept my smile, you know, and I still keep my smile till today, you know, because that and my faith in God is what got me through this. And of course, the support that I had. I had a huge, huge support team. And that makes a huge difference when you’re fighting something like this.

Jamie: What was the treatment plan then going forward?

Daphne: The treatment plan was, I guess it ranged out to be about 20 weeks of treatments. The first four treatments were aggressive chemo, and after the end, I had those every two weeks. And then I had 12 weeks of weekly chemotherapy. So the first four were the hardest, you know, because that was when I lost all my hair, which, you know, I didn’t allow that to be a sad thing for me because a lot of women are like, Oh, if I lose my hair, I was like, it’s just hair. It’ll come back, you know? And of course, it has come back. You know, my husband, initially, he did the honor of shaving it for me. He didn’t want to it took him two days to finally say okay, yeah, yeah. And he did it. And, you know, We both cried, you know, just for a moment. And again, we went back to its just hair, you know, but I guess that initial shock of seeing that baldness, looking back at you and what I was going to be faced with for the next 20 weeks. You know, that was hard. It was hard.

Jamie: To be one of those warriors and survivors, man it is a network. And that is important.

Daphne: Yes, yes. And just to be able to share my story with people that I don’t even know. It’s just like, God has been placing people in my path. You know, it may be in the grocery store, and all of a sudden, we’ll strike up a conversation. And we have something in common, you know, and I feel like my story has helped them as well as listening to what they had to share has helped me. So it has really truly made me a stronger person.

It was a long road and a lot of tough decisions. In February, Daphne had a double mastectomy.

She decided it was her best option since there’s such a high risk of her breast cancer coming back. It’s because triple-negative breast cancer is so aggressive.

The question is why?

We spoke with her doctor, Lori Gentile.

Dr. Gentile: We think that some of it is an access problem. And that’s well known. And there, there are lots of programs out there through Susan G, Komen, and all around the country to help promote access to that care. But even when studies have shown to control for these factors control for mobilities control for socioeconomic status control for income levels, we still see that there are some differences in breast cancer in African Americans both and the type of breast cancer that’s diagnosed, and their ability and willingness to accept and move along with treatment.

Jamie: Does that mean there’s a genetic difference somewhere in here?

Dr. Gentile: So that is one hot area of topic and study. And so we do see that mortality rates even speak for a stage when black women have an equal stage and our things are being equal are decreased, and women of African American descent and so there are a lot of national consortiums actually around both in the United States and worldwide, who are studying women of African ancestry, studying the genetic makeup of the tumors, and studying the genetic makeup of the women to see if there are differences and things that we can account for from a genetic perspective,

Jamie: Is there any possibility that the cancer is staying hidden longer, it makes it harder to find or detect?

Dr. Gentile: That hasn’t necessarily come up? As really a significant reason. One big difference that we seen all comers, we see about 10 to 15% of breast cancers are triple-negative, you know, and black women, interestingly enough, we see that black women 30% of cancers are triple-negative. And when we look at younger black women, so pre-menopausal, or women who have yet to go through menopause, so usually under the age of 50, we see that half of the breast cancer diagnosed in that population are actually triple-negative, which and has lower, you know, more aggressive type of cancer and lower survival. And that’s a real hot topic of study, and we don’t currently have a good explanation as to why that difference exists.

She says triple-negative breast cancer can be detected with mammograms. But, because it grows so fast, it’s usually found during a self-exam.

Much like Daphne’s story. Dr. Gentile says that’s why self-exams are so critical. It means you can catch it and treat it sooner...which means, a better chance at beating it.

And there is some more hope on the cancer front.

Cleveland Clinic is actually beginning a human trial of a vaccine that could prevent triple-negative breast cancer.

This is just phase one.

It could be years before it’s even approved or available. But - as the lead investigator says, we have to start somewhere - and this is an exciting first step.

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