BETHESDA, Md. – Self exam, get a mammogram and advocate for your health.
That’s the message from FOX 5’s Ayesha Khan, who at 40-years-old, faces her most daunting assignment yet.
Ayesha picks up the second installment of the series "Cancer: Fight over Fear," where she chronicles her experience with ongoing chemotherapy treatments.
The below narrative is a continuation of her personal story that she hopes will help to spread more awareness across the DMV for early detection and advocating for regular medical exams.
A stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis in July 2021, led me to have a single breast mastectomy in October. A decision that was necessary so that the growing tumor found in my right breast wouldn’t spread to other parts of my body.
It’s a pretty major surgery that took two surgeons and about three hours.
While I rested and recovered post-mastectomy, I was thinking, surely this is it, the cancer is now out of me and I can go back to work, telling stories again.
"Any breast cancer can spread to lymph nodes," explained my breast surgeon Dr. Colette Magnant of Maryland Oncology Hematology.
And that’s what happened in my case once my pathology reports came back.
Which meant, the cancer is upgraded from stage two to now three.
"Because you are slim, the tumor was close to the skin and because there were two tumors there," Magnant went on to explain.
"So the combination of those factors meant that we had to take quite a bit of skin off the breast. We wanted to take out the cancer with some surrounding normal tissue because that gives us the best prognosis in terms of it not coming back locally."
At the time, it felt like, the worst-case scenario, just kept coming true.
Sobbing like a child had become a daily part of my everyday reality due to the long road I was possibly facing ahead needing chemotherapy.
My brother Zeshan and I got four other doctor opinions, hoping that maybe one of them was going to favor no need for chemo —and surely that’s the plan I would go with.
Cancer: Fight over Fear pt. 1 Fox 5’s Ayesha Khan shares ongoing experience with breast cancer treatment
Zeshan, has been my rock and someone I have leaned on heavily during this time. He spent hours researching all kinds of other possible treatments and drugs that could maybe spare me the chemo route.
But all doctor opinions pointed to needing 16 rounds of what essentially is poison.
None of the doctors sugar coated anything, nor did I expect them to.
I was told, the first four rounds of the treatment are dose-dense and will be the hardest with side effects.
Many of those side effects for me included losing a lot of hair, changes in nail color, immense fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, hand and foot syndrome, brain fog, hot flashes, insomnia, and constipation.
"We have such better medications for things like nausea and for neuropathy, and things in the past that weren’t treatable at all," said Dr. Nichols Farrell, my oncologist who works at Maryland Oncology Hematology.
"Chemotherapy is a huge group of drugs we use to treat cancer and different people have different experiences with it, but many people do quite well with chemotherapy. It’s mostly about managing side effects and I think we manage side effects much better than we did in the old days," Dr. Farrell added.
It doesn’t just end at chemo for me. Because of the type of cancer I have, I will need six weeks of daily radiation, followed by ten years of targeted hormonal therapy. In between, I will need reconstruction at the site of the mastectomy.
I am confident in my course of chemotherapy treatment, but my case may not be representative of what other breast cancer patients face.
My doctors have said that the prognosis is excellent. My body has been responding very well to the treatments for a diagnosis that is very curable.
I am finding it very therapeutic to be able to share this experience that has stretched over the course of eight months. But beyond that, I am utilizing this public platform to help raise more awareness, in addition to providing information on resources and ways to help people going through a similar health setback.
I will be sharing information I have gathered about managing wellness and mental health in addition to resources available during treatment which are all under one roof at the Aquilino Cancer Center where I am currently being tested.