Farrah Sharples: 3x Breast Cancer Warrior
My name is Farrah, and I currently live in New York City. I was first diagnosed with Her2 positive breast cancer in February 2011. I felt a lump in my left breast while taking a shower. On February 10, 2011, I had an emergency biopsy that showed breast cancer. The surgeon recommended that I have a double mastectomy and chemotherapy as soon as possible.
On February 22, 2011, I had both breasts and 11 lymph nodes removed, and expanders were added. I started chemotherapy, also known as Red Devil, a week after. After several attempts to find a vein in my right arm, I had to get a port put in to get the medicine injected. The side effects of chemotherapy were losing all my hair, weight loss, body aches, fatigue, vomiting, diarrhea, dry skin, dry eyes, black spots on my tongue, terrible migraines, and discoloration in my face with black spots on my fingers and toes. Also, during this time, I had expanders and had to see my surgeon every two weeks to extend the expanders to stretch my skin for the breast implants. The whole experience was horrific. Not only did I have to deal with the side effects of chemo, but I also had to deal with the excessive pain of stretching my skin because I wanted implants.
After 6 months of chemo, it finally ended, and I was able to get my implants. I was so happy this nightmare ended, and I continued living my life normally again. However, I had to take Tamoxifen for 5 years, which resulted in other side effects, like mood swings, hot flashes, menopause, and thickening of my uterus. I started having excessive vaginal bleeding that lasted for days, so my gynecologist recommended I remove my uterus and ovaries to alleviate the possibility of getting ovarian cancer. Although I was very reluctant to have this surgery, I realized that it was best to avoid future complications.
On December 15, 2017, I was rushed to the hospital because of excruciating abdominal pain. The pain was a result of taking too much Percocet pain medicine. While at the hospital, I had to take an X-ray of my stomach and was informed I had cancer in my lungs. I was in total shock! I thought I was cancer-free and had no issues with breathing, shortness of breath, or coughing. I was also at the hospital for abdominal pain, not discomfort in my lungs. The nightmare had started all over again. This time I was more fearful because it was in my lungs, which means it spread. While at the hospital, I had a Pet scan that showed that the cancer was only in my lungs. That was great news, but I was also scared of how bad it was in my lungs and would I die or again do very aggressive chemotherapy. After one week of being in the hospital with a tube in my nose down to my stomach to help me pass my bowels, I started chemotherapy, not Red Devil. I was infused with Herceptin and Prejeta and had to get a port again. Once again, I had to deal with side effects but not as severe. I dealt with hair thinning but not hair loss, fatigue, and mental distress. I also had to be on disability again at work.
After about three months of treatment, my last PET scan showed I was once again, for the second time, CANCER FREE. However, I have to undergo Herceptin and Prejeta as a preventative treatment for the rest of my life. I was fearful reoccurrence may happen again and when. I was also worried about the long-term side effects of the treatment. My fear had come true because in July 2020, during the pandemic, I was feeling very abnormally fatigued and mentioned it to my Oncologist. I was informed that cancer came back and that the treatment I've been taking to prevent cancer from coming back had also weakened my heart. I had to see a cardiologist who prescribed me heart medication to regulate my heart rate and blood pressure. With the 2nd reoccurrence, my Oncologist did not recommend chemotherapy but suggested I continue the same treatment and have PET scans every three months. If there is an increase in the number or size of the nodules, I will have to do chemotherapy again.
I live most of my life in fear that the nodules may increase or spread, and I would have to do chemotherapy for the third time. I am fearful that my body isn't strong enough to withstand chemotherapy's side effects, and I don't think I am mentally prepared to deal with all the side effects again. Currently, I am a woman living with cancer in my lungs and trying to survive and stay positive every day while hoping and praying for the best every time I have a scan. I suffer from scanxiety every three months and fear that the time has come for me to face my nightmare again.
I share my story, journey, struggles, challenges, and all things related to being a woman fighting this terrible disease on my Youtube channel "Surviving Breast Cancer in Stilettos." I also have an Instagram Page: survivingbreastcancer_