Today, Anne counts her blessings as a breast cancer survivor and a mother of two.
It didn’t seem possible. She had no family history. She was healthier than she’d been in years. Her daily routine included eating right and exercising. But Anne Embry couldn’t deny the biopsy results: the tumor was malignant. At only 28 years old, she was facing breast cancer.
“Devastated is an understatement,” Anne said, upon learning the diagnosis. “We were a mess.”
Just a few weeks prior, Anne and her husband, Andrew, had learned she was pregnant with their second child, a blessing after battling infertility. But a whirlwind of bad news included an ultrasound that showed an ectopic pregnancy. Anne was rushed to surgery and lost the pregnancy at five weeks. The cancer diagnosis followed shortly, the day before Thanksgiving.
“We were so scared and overwhelmed,” Anne said. “My prognosis was good because we caught it very early but because I was so young, we were told we should treat it aggressively.” Making the right choice regarding her treatment plan was hard, but Anne wanted to know she had done everything possible and wouldn’t have regrets.
“We moved forward full throttle,” Anne said. Working with doctors at Willis Knighton Cancer Center, she had a double mastectomy followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. “I have a close knit family that helped me get through it. I leaned on my faith. When you’re faced with your own mortality at such a young age, you don’t have anything to lean on but your faith.”
During that time Anne tried to keep everything as normal as possible for her then-2-year-old daughter, Claire. “I continued to take her to preschool when I could and told her age appropriately what was going on. I didn’t want her to see me scared or worried. When I lost my hair, she was totally normal with it, which was such a blessing. She was a ray of sunshine to help me get through everything.”
After completing chemo, Anne began to consider having another child, but she received mixed messages on whether to proceed. “Most breast cancers are fed by estrogen, so I was to take hormonal treatment every day for 5-10 years to suppress estrogen in my body, which would be detrimental to a fetus.”
But Anne wanted another child. She began extensive research to help her make the best decision, devoting two years to going to conferences, consulting with doctors across the country and considering her options. “I made it my crusade to figure out if I could safely have another baby.”
The feedback she received was positive.
“Every doctor and specialist that I contacted said yes, giving me confidence to move forward,” she said. “I came off the estrogen suppressant after two years and was determined to try to get pregnant. We were walking blindly into the unknown but had to know that we tried. We prayed about it a lot and gave it four to six months to get pregnant on my own.”
Anne and Andrew’s prayers were answered when their daughter Stella was born, three and a half years after the initial breast cancer diagnosis. “Everything went great. Our little girl was born five months ago and she’s perfectly healthy. It was nice to be a pregnant mother—a normal patient this time.” A happy ending to difficult circumstances.
Today, Anne counts her blessings as a breast cancer survivor and a mother of two. She wants others to hear her story to raise awareness of breast cancer, whether young or old.
“I want other women to know that they’re not alone,” she said. “Take the good with the bad and make the best of it. You don’t know how strong you are until that’s the only choice you have.”
She also emphasized, “Early detection is key. Listen to your body, be your own best advocate. If you’re worried about something, don’t just sit on it—present it to your doctor. We don’t think breast cancer will happen to a young woman, but it can and it does.”
By Gayla Grace