Special Photo: Shondia McFadden-Sabari, of Locust Grove, is a breast cancer survivor. She encourages other women to get a mammogram and to know their family medical history.
A year ago, Shondia McFadden-Sabari was prompted to have a mammogram. The Locust Grove woman listened to the inner voice urging her action, and she is a breast cancer survivor today.
“I believe it was the Holy Spirit that prompted me to get that mammogram,” said McFadden-Sabari. “I am scared to think where I would be if I had not listened to that still, small voice. Luckily, the very next day I had an appointment for my annual physical, before traveling to Columbia, S.C.”
McFadden-Sabari, 36, originally from Timmonsville, S.C., said when she went for her first mammogram, she was told by her gynecologist, the general rule of thumb is mammograms are usually not performed until age 40. McFadden-Sabari had a screening mammogram at Image Care, in Columbia, S.C., and knew her status within two weeks.
“The results stated that I had calcifications and changes in tissue,” she said. “The following week, they did a repeat, diagnostic mammogram. That’s when things really didn’t look right, and the radiologist told me [they] needed to do a biopsy,” two days before Christmas.
“They told me they would get back to me after Christmas,” she said. “Christmas 2010 was on a Saturday. I later found out that it was documented and confirmed that I had breast cancer on Dec. 23.”
The following Monday, she said, the radiologist’s nurse called and told her she had breast cancer.
“I asked which breast, and she said: ‘Darling, both.’ I began to cry, and she told me, ‘It’s not a death sentence, if you’re going to have breast cancer, this is the kind you want to have. The kind you have is DCIS ductal carcinoma.”
McFadden-Sabari was told to get a second opinion about the diagnosis, and the other area in her left breast tested. She did, and got a final medical opinion from a surgical oncologist, Dr. Sheryl Gabram.
McFadden-Sabari said her husband, Waliyyuddin, and their children, Chase, 9 and Trinity, 8, helped her do more research about the diagnosis.
“Trinity wrote questions down for me to ask the doctor about the cancer,” she said. Chase explained to his mother what he read about cancer on the Internet.
“He told me what my options were,” she said. “Mommy, they can take fat from your stomach or your back, and build you more breasts.” McFadden-Sabari said Trinity interrupted her brother, saying, “Mommy, just let them cut them off and forget about the cancer.”
All of the tests prior to surgery confirmed that McFadden-Sabari had DCIS in her left breast, with stage zero and stage one status in her left breast. In her right breast, she had stage zero, but, she added, she had DCIS and LCIS in her right breast.
On Feb. 11, she had surgery to remove her breasts.
“I had a talk with my husband and children about what I wanted to do, as far my options, and we made [the] decision,” she said. “I did not do reconstruction, and I do not wear breast prosthesis bras. My doctor was able to remove all of the cancer. I did not have to do chemo or radiation. However, I am taking an Aromatase Inhibitor pill for five years, to prevent the cancer from returning.”
The young, vibrant woman said she is glad she listened and had the mammogram done, even though she had not reached age 40. “I don’t feel any different from when I had my breasts.
She strongly advises other women to have mammograms and know their family history. “Don’t let fear stop you from asking questions and getting checked out,” she said.
“Be your own advocate. We all should be our own advocate. It is especially important if you have a family history, or haven’t had a mammogram at all. Be aggressive, don’t be afraid when it comes to your health.”