Christina McAmis’ cancer journey began when she found a lump while breastfeeding. The attorney and mother of three tells the “Cancer Horizons” podcast what the last nine years have been like for her and her family.
It’s been nearly a decade since Christina McAmis began her journey with stage 4 breast cancer. At the time, she was a 32-year-old married mother of three, including twin boys and a baby daughter, and had recently begun studying at a California law school.
“All sorts of positive, amazing things were coming together into what I thought was going to be the happiest time of my life,” she told CURE®.
While breastfeeding her six-month-old daughter, McAmis found a lump, approximately half of the size of a grain of rice, close to her sternum. Given her family history of breast cancer, McAmis began seeing Dr. Claudia DeYoung, an internist specializing in breast health who runs the Center for Breast Health at the South Sacramento Kaiser Permanente Medical Center.
“We had done an ultrasound and determined that it seemed like just a lymph node, I was still nursing so having a lymph node swollen in that area was not surprising,” McAmis said. “I had just started law school, so my nursing schedule had been completely changed because of that (and) my daughter never did ever take a bottle. … And so, we had decided to watch that and if there were changes to let Dr. DeYoung know.”
McAmis became wrapped up in law school, and a couple of weeks before midterms she received an emergency phone call while picking up her sons from school.
“I needed to come home right away, my townhouse was on fire,” she said. “And literally the townhouse next door burnt down to the ground, we were lucky enough just to sustain some really heavy smoke damage. I spent that night with my 12-month-old — who does not sleep well at other people's houses — at my friend's house.”
McAmis had to wake up at 6 a.m. the next day for an appointment with DeYoung, but she was in no mood to do so.
“I was like, ‘I'm not doing this. I'm not doing this,’” she said. “But somewhere in the back of my brain was just like, ‘You've got to do this, it needs to just happen.’ So, I pulled on my big girl boots and trumped off to Dr. DeYoung's office. And we decided to biopsy at that point, because the mass had not gotten really much bigger, but also had not gone away at all.”
Testing determined that McAmis had breast cancer, that the disease was in her lymph nodes and she a lesion on her breastbone, just above her heart.
“At that point, we decided to stop playing, (that) this was stage four, that it had metastasized,” she said.
Chemotherapy, then surgery to remove her breasts and ovaries, followed. McAmis, now working as an attorney, and DeYoung have reconnected via the Cancer Survivorship Program following McAmis’ completion of active treatment as she transitioned to maintenance therapy.
“You know, that grain of (rice), pea-sized lump that Christina and her husband had felt, looked on imaging (to be) benign,” DeYoung said. “But it wasn't. … That follow-up is crucial. That follow up by Christina, that follow up by her care team. And so, I'm glad we stayed on it.
“And again, there's always hindsight and (you could say) ‘Coulda, woulda, shoulda,’ (but) the fact of the matter is we made the best decision at the point in time with the evidence that we had, with the agreement that we're going to monitor this and if it goes away, then great (and) if it doesn't or if it changes then we're going to go down a different route. And we were true to that plan. And thank goodness we were.”
In this episode of the CURE “Cancer Horizons” podcast, Christina and Dr. DeYoung discuss her cancer journey and Christina shares how she and her family have navigated it together for the last nine years.
“I … told (my children) that right now, we're living,” McAmis said. “I am living, and we're going to focus on the living.”
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