“When I found out that I had breast cancer, I promised myself that I was going to stay positive so my kids could see how strong their mom is,” Amy Finley recalls.
Ever since her initial diagnosis of “triple negative” breast cancer, Amy has continued to live each day as well as she can. This rare form of cancer affects about 15 percent of the breast cancer population.
“We’ve spent our COVID-19 days taking road trips, going boating, visiting states we’ve never been to and visiting drive-through attractions like a dinosaur park, as a way to get away and avoid contact with other people,” she explained.
In early March, the 39-year-old Greenup mother of three noticed something on her breast. “It was barely noticeably. Some days I could feel it, other days I couldn’t. I didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I was almost 40 and thought I could wait until my birthday to have my first mammogram. Her husband, Kris, was more concerned. He said, “I told her if she didn’t call to make an appointment, then I would.”
She reached out to her primary care provider, Marlene Kremer, MD., in early May. “She was very kind and thorough. I had a mammogram on a Monday and because it was during COVID-19, no one could be with me. Dr. Kremer called me that afternoon and asked me to come to the office.”
They were in the car, so Kris pulled to the side of the road so they could talk with Dr. Kremer about what was discovered in the mammogram. “Dr. Kremer wanted to tell me personally that I had invasive ductile cancer. She was really comforting and made the referral to the Regional Cancer Center,” Amy explained. Within days, Amy had her first and second biopsy, an ultrasound, echocardiogram, PET scan and an MRI. Ten days later, she started a treatment plan that included 16 rounds of chemotherapy, followed by maintenance therapy for six months.
Her diagnosis was grade 3 triple negative, and it was growing quickly. By the time Amy and Kris met with Oncologist Abdur Shakir, MD, Kris had already done mounds of research and had a page full of questions for him. Kris is nothing if he is not thorough. “I had read research, clinical trials, best options for treatment; everything I could read about it, I had,” he said. “Nearly every time we met with Dr. Shakir, I had lots of questions for him, and Dr. Shakir took the time to answer each question. He doesn’t sugarcoat anything, which we appreciate, but he does stay positive throughout.”
Living a healthy lifestyle and caring for others as the owner of Whispering Oaks senior living facility, Amy questioned, “Why me? What did I do to get this?” she said. “I prayed on it and I know there has to be a purpose, and I know I want to make sure I am using this to create good. We have received so much love from our small town, that it is overwhelming.”
Amy has taken the time to continue to journal throughout her treatment and has encouraged her daughters, Aubrey, 11, and Alaina, 9, to express their feelings. Their youngest, 3-year-old Easton, understands the situation as much as he can. The kids’ evening prayers have gone from praying to God to kill the cancer to asking God’s help in keeping their mommy better. I’ve noticed our daughters are now praying for other people who they think need it,” she said.
“I know that I’m never going to be the same person ever again because cancer has changed me. At first, I was angry and cried a lot, but then I realized that this is an opportunity for me. Kris and I, and our family, are so much closer than we were,” Amy said.
Steeped in faith, their first stop after receiving the devastating news was to visit with their pastor. “He told us that there is a purpose and a meaning behind everything. I believe God is telling me something, perhaps that this is a way to start over and make a difference in someone else’s life. I try hard to find grace in this . . . to try to find good in it. I just want to use this experience for good,” Amy added.
For more information about the SBL Regional Cancer Center, call 217 258-2250.