“The first thing that went through my mind was ‘I’m going to die,’” licensed practical nurse Amber Treadwell told The Times-Gazette, reflecting back on that fateful day when doctors told her she had breast cancer. “Before rational thoughts kicked in, I thought to myself, ‘I’m not ready to leave my family.’”
That day — Feb. 19, 2020 — was also Treadwell’s 31st birthday.
Even though women aren’t advised to begin having mammograms until the age of 45 unless there is a family history of breast cancer, Treadwell arranged to have one to dispel the growing worry in her mind.
After the mammogram and a later ultrasound, she said physicians grew concerned about what the pictures revealed. According to Treadwell, they told her, “There’s something ugly there, and we need to look at it further.”
A biopsy and an MRI showed that Treadwell had ductal carcinoma in situ, which is considered the earliest form of breast cancer.
“The cancer I have is always stage zero,” Treadwell said, “but my doctor told me that my tumor was much larger than ones she had ever seen in that form of cancer, so when they asked me if I wanted the lumpectomy or mastectomy, it was a no-brainer — I told them to get rid of it and take it all.”
In addition to losing her right breast, doctors removed seven lymph nodes, leaving her with no feeling on the right side of her breast, under her armpit or down the back of her arm.
Treadwell said she will, though, have to deal with nerve pain in her arm for the rest of her life from where the lymph nodes were removed.
A 2007 Hillsboro High School graduate, Treadwell is now an LPN working at a nursing home in Piqua but still has relatives that live in Highland County and returns often to visit.
Treadwell said she wanted to publish “My Story Isn’t Over: Sixteen Remarkable Stories of Breast Cancer Survival,” a collection of true stories written by women who were diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40, for two reasons: to encourage women facing cancer with ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ type of book and to give back to Pink Ribbon Girls, a women’s support organization that played a key role in getting her through those tough days of uncertainty.
“In my book, there is a girl who is 25 years old who was diagnosed, and she’s from Hillsboro too,” Treadwell said. “It takes you into the life of not only my story but the other 15 girls in my book. We all had different types of breast cancer and, for the most part, were all diagnosed this year as well.”
Treadwell said that all of the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support the work of Pink Ribbon Ladies, which, according to their website, provides healthy meals, housecleaning, rides to treatment, and peer support to individuals with breast and gynecological cancers free of charge — with no income, age or cancer stage restrictions.
“They are just an amazing resource when you’re facing breast cancer — or any cancer for that matter,” she said.
She added that fellow HHS graduate Tracie Puckett, who herself is a published author, helped her bring the book project to reality.
Treadwell also encouraged women who had just been given a cancer diagnosis, or were just joining the battle to defeat the disease, that they were not alone and to take advantage of the medical and social support networks that are currently available.
“Regardless of your age or family history, be sure to get your mammogram,” Treadwell said. “If there is something there, you want to catch it early — no matter what you go through, even on your bad days, the good days are coming.”
“My Story Isn’t Over: Sixteen Remarkable Stories of Breast Cancer Survival” is available for purchase online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Apple Books.
To donate to Pink Ribbon Girls, mail a check to Pink Ribbon Girls, 32 E. Main St., Tipp City, Ohio 45371, or visit pinkribbongirls.org.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.