My name is Lois McKenzie Ahmed, I am 56 years old and in March of 2020, I was diagnosed with HER-2 Positive Breast Cancer.
I had my annual screening mammogram in February and a week and a half later was called to schedule additional views of my left breast and an ultrasound. I wasn’t worried because my breasts are very dense and I’ve had these screenings done before with good results. However, this time, during the ultrasound the radiologist recommended that I have a biopsy. I knew at that moment that it was cancer. I didn’t panic, but I did start praying.
I was referred to breast surgeon Dr. Cecilia Cuntz for a biopsy. Within a week, Dr. Cuntz called me to tell me it was cancer and that she wanted me in her office the next day. My first reaction after hearing it was cancer was shock. This is when I got a little worried because this was the beginning of COVID-19. I was worried about getting the coronavirus and being isolated from family. But Dr. Cuntz took her time and explained everything very clearly to me and my sister.
My first step fighting cancer was with plastic surgeon Dr. Jenna Bourgeois, who performed a lumpectomy with reduction and reconstruction. After healing from surgery, I met with oncologist Dr. Laura Zatarain for chemotherapy and Dr. Katie Castle for radiation therapy. Chemo was the worst part of the journey for me. There were many times I wanted to quit. I used prayer and positive thinking to motivate me. As they say “this too shall pass.”
Being diagnosed with cancer made me realize how strong, brave, and resilient I really am. Sometimes you don’t realize this until you’re put to the test. I’ve always been compassionate to others, but now I have a full understanding and compassion for patients with cancer and what they have to go through.
Advice I would give newly diagnosed patients is to make sure you bring someone to your appointments with you because so much information is discussed. Take a notebook and take notes because you will NOT remember everything. And pray, meditate, laugh, listen to your favorite music and most importantly love yourself.
I found out that, even from a distance, I have a support system. While they are not able to visit me, we talk and video chat every chance we get. My sister Paula and brother-in-law took time out of their schedule to drive me every week to chemo. That was our bonding time to talk and laugh. I can’t thank them enough for all they have done and continue to do.
Wow, I can’t brag enough about the staff at the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion, partnership between Woman’s Hospital and Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. At my very first visit, the greeter knew who I was and what physician I was going to see – can’t ask for better service than that! Everyone from the doctors, medical assistants, nurse practitioner, lab technicians, chemo nurses, and receptionists are all wonderful. Everyone is so genuine and caring; they’re not only my medical team, but now family. Thank y’all so much and I love each one of you so much.
Through the generosity of our community donors, the Foundation for Woman’s supports free mammograms to any woman who cannot pay. We do this on our campus and through our two mammography coaches. Woman’s is also a partner of Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs, that enables us to provide no-cost mammograms and Pap tests patients with barriers to care.