Hello, my name is Cayatanita (Kai-Ya-Ta-Nih- Ta), I am a thriving survivor of both Cardiovascular Disease and Breast Cancer.
Having been born with a birth defect in my heart, at the age of twenty-six, I had two mild heart attacks, which resulted in me undergoing, what sadly later turned out to be unnecessary, open heart surgery.
Yet, life after the heart surgery experience has brought many unexpected changes my way, mostly for the good!Life was good, and then at 32 years young, I had found love and was pursuing a career in the airline industry when I began to notice some changes to my body; one of my breasts was growing larger and it felt like I had a lot of pressure on my heart.
I put it down to my anxiety and trying to get acclimated to my new flying lifestyle, so I thought it best that I meet with a Cardiologist to put my worries at ease.
I shared my history, he listened, viewed my records before telling me that I should not have had the open-heart surgery in the first place, because my condition is not fixable or repairable. I was in shock; he ordered an ultrasound to check my heart was OK and when the results came back good, he told me if any issues arise to make a follow up appointment.
Around this time, I also had my annual check with a Gynaecologist. During the appointment I also mentioned to her that I had discovered a lump in my breast, whilst not her area of expertise, she casually told me it was probably nothing, and didn’t refer me on for further testing.
When I left the exam room, I couldn’t understand what the purpose of having to fill out paperwork if my voice, my concerns, and my family history, my Aunt was a Breast Cancer survivor, was not valid!
I felt despite my visits to ‘experts’ no one was hearing my voice and concerns, so I went back to life, avoiding doctors, ignoring the warning signs, and silencing that little voice in my head that something was not quite right
In the weeks following I had a dark aching bruise in my breast. I just figured it was from the Cardiovascular ultrasound tech being heavy-handed and I was getting a later body response. However while I was on vacation shortly after, I noticed my nipple was discharging clear fluid, but I told myself it was because I was ovulating, again I put aside that little voice in my head screaming at this point to listen to the warning signs!
June passed and July arrived, the anniversary month of when I had open heart surgery, but the clear fluid from my nipple is now yellow and I was using a women’s hygiene pad to avoid my bra being soaked.
When I saw blood discharge in the second week of July, I finally woke up to myself and knew I needed to see someone.
I called the nurse hotline and she booked me an appointment that week. I met with the first available doctor. The doctor examined me, took samples of the blood from my breast, booked a mammogram and ultrasound for me, he also informed me I would possibly have a biopsy. I had my appointment the following day and my nerves were all over the place, but I had my partner with me.
As I laid down to have my ultrasound done, she began to move the wand against my breast. I noticed the tech looked so puzzled, she called for the doctor immediately, who came into the room and stared at the monitor and said, “she needs a mammogram as well,” and looked right at me and said to me, “you may need a biopsy possibly today too”.
I had tears in my eyes, I wasn’t ready to deal with that pain. As I moved into the next room for my mammogram, the tech moved me into position and starts up the machine, fluid began to leak from my nipple onto the machine. She walks over to change my position and notices the blood and backs herself up immediately and put her hands over her face, “No… you are too young!”
As she finished my mammogram, with tears in her eyes, she apologised for hurting me. The doctor and tech both commented that the mass detected was too large and that I needed a biopsy so they could have proper results.
I came back into that office and despite the tears and angst, I went through with the biopsy.
They said I would receive my results by Friday, but Friday came and went, and I was left to dwell over the weekend.
I did my best to stay distracted when my doctor finally called and she gave me results over the phone. She told me my results came back positive for breast cancer, that I was Triple Negative and then later added that I also carried the BRCA2 Gene Mutation.
I cried, cursed, and screamed so hard, I felt the pain move through my spine. I had questions but didn’t know how and what to ask. She said she had booked my appointments with a team and I needed to meet with them as soon as possible.
I called a family member asking for their help, they told me I needed to speak with my aunt because she had been through a breast cancer journey and could help. I spoke with my Auntie Wanda, she listened, and I told her I can’t do this journey alone, like I had my heart surgery. I didn’t want to be a burden for my boyfriend, she told me I wouldn’t have to do this alone and she will be here to help me.
With my boyfriend and Auntie by my side, we met with my team of doctors. As a fiercely independent woman, I even fired one along the way who tried to tell me I didn’t need a double mastectomy.
It was this experience that taught me, I am the CEO of my health and medical professionals are the board of directors. Do not, ever, let anyone tell you something that doesn’t sit right with you.
Treatment involved a double mastectomy, fertility preservation, six months of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, and I am currently working through physical therapy as I have lymphedema.
My journey is not at a close at this time, because I still have to have reconstruction surgery in the future, but with Covid-19 that is on hold. It just gives me more time to think about if I want to be a part of the ‘Plastic Titty Committee’ or a ‘Flatty Babe’.
What kept me going through my journey is that I have dreams and desires to be with the people I love, to continue to be a daughter, a sister, a friend and in the future a wife, a traveller, and a mother. I am looking forward to hearing baby giggles and children’s laughter.
Personally, I want anyone, and especially women of colour, who may be going through a similar situation to know that your feelings, concerns, and your voice matter.
If you find yourself not being comfortable advocating for yourself, express your thoughts with family and friends (put together your dream team) to be able to offer you the support you need to strive to thrive. Rise through your journey and know that your soul tribe is out there and waiting!
And I am here to offer any support, the best way that I can!
Peace, Love, and Plenty of Coconut Oil!