Breast cancer at a young age

Evelyn David, diagnosed at 31, but learning to embrace the disease

October 07, 2010|By Andrea K. Walker, The Baltimore Sun

Evelyn David's mother, grandmother and great-grandmother all had breast cancer, so she knew there was a high likelihood that she would get the disease, too.

But she never imagined it would strike so early.

Last year, at age 31, David was enjoying the early years of marriage and looking forward to having kids.

"I was still partying and doing my thing," said the federal police officer, who lives in Baltimore. "The farthest thing from my mind was breast cancer. I never thought it would happen at this time in my life."

She was shocked when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 breast cancer after finding a lump in her right breast during a self-examination in the shower.

Suddenly David was in treatment dealing with hot flashes, just like menopausal women, and worrying about fertility issues. Some cancer patients freeze their eggs for later use, but she didn't have time to do that. Because chemotherapy can kill the cells crucial in egg production, she must take medication to try to protect her fertility.

David is also preparing for the day when she will have both breasts removed, to decrease the odds of a recurrence or new cancer developing. She plans to have the double mastectomy when chemotherapy treatments end, even though some people have told her that it is a drastic decision to make at her age.

"People just don't know how it feels to go through being treated for cancer," David said. "If this will help me not to have to go through this again, then I'll do it."

David has a type of breast cancer known as "triple negative" because it lacks three different receptors that are linked to the growth of cancer cells. That distinctive characteristic eliminates the targets of many drug treatments, making it difficult to treat. She is part of large national clinical trial in which patients receive chemotherapy with or without the drug Avastin.

Lately, David has learned to deal with the disease she is suffering from. A self-described diva who once followed the latest fashions and hairstyles, David now misses her weekly hair appointments.

But for her 32nd birthday in July she took portraits in all her bald-headed glory — with no wig or head wrap.

David said that she and her husband of three years, James, whom she met while serving in the Army, have grown closer because of the disease. He's also a federal officer, and they travel and spend as much time as they can together.

Amid her exhausting cancer treatments, David had to interrupt her studies in forensics at the University of Baltimore. But she plans to start again next semester.

She said, "I'm just attempting to do everything I can in life."

andrea.walker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/ankwalker

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