In July local resident Amber Passwaters was diagnosed with breast cancer after she sought medical advice concerning a lump she found on her breast. Taking into account her excellent health and young age of 29, her entire family has been devastated and shocked by the diagnosis. Starting treatment just two weeks ago, Amber is on her way to becoming cancer free before she reaches the age of 30.
Graduating from Milford High School in 2003, Amber received her Bachelor’s in Arts in Geograpghy from the University of Delaware. She currently works for the State of Delaware as she continues to study for her Master’s Degree in Environmental Science. An active hiker and runner, she would like to work for the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. All of these plans, however, have now taken a back seat after her diagnosis in June as Amber works to get her health back on track.
Although younger females generally do not see themselves with being at risk for breast cancer, national statistics have revealed that 7% off all breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years old. Visiting her doctor in July after she felt an unusual lump through self-examination, Amber now shares the importance of early detection with other young women.
“It is so important for young women to be aware of their own body and to be checked out on a regular basis by their doctor,” commented Amber. “I never thought that a healthy 29-year-old could be diagnosed with breast cancer.”
On Monday, August 19 Amber underwent surgery to place a port in her chest for use during chemotherapy, which she began two weeks later. Through several biopsies of her breast during that surgery, it was discovered that she has two active tumors in her left breast and that the cancer has spread to her lymph nodes in the left armpit.
Since breast cancer is known to spread to the bones, Amber received a bone scan and an ultrasound to check her ovaries since many of the genetic mutations that cause breast cancer can also cause ovarian cancer. Receiving some good news, Amber’s bone scan and ultrasound of the ovaries both came back normal, meaning there is no indication that her cancer has spread beyond her breast and lymph nodes at this point.
On Thursday, August 30 Amber had her first round of chemo treatment and her white blood cell booster shot was administered on that Friday. She will receive an eight-week treatment, receiving chemo treatment every other week in an attempt to shrink her tumors to a size where they may be removed. Amber remains fatigued but has kept a positive outlook through the treatment process.
“You have to stay high-spirited and believe you will get through it,” stated Amber. “There is no other way to think about it.”
Amber’s physicians expect the full treatment to take 5 to 6 months before they can check for any repeat symptoms of the cancer in her body. Family and friends believe that Amber has the ability and strength to overcome the disease, but they are also worried about the financial strain that her treatment and recovery process will place on Amber and her husband Allan Passwaters. According to Amber her white blood cell booster shoot alone, which she receives after chemotherapy every two weeks, is a cost of $3,000.
Her family has begun a fundraising effort in the community and online, known as Team Amber, to help with the medical costs associated with her chemo treatments and recovery process. In August friends and family members of Amber raised over $1,000 towards Amber’s medical bills through a yard sale in Frederica. Continuing that effort the family is asking individuals in the community to help the young couple through the financial burden by donating to Team Amber at www.Youcaring.com. Individuals can also see updates on Amber and the fundraising efforts, by visiting the Support Team Amber Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/710892708927298/.
“I hope to be cancer free and get back to school,” commented Amber. “I have had a great support group including my sisters and husband, I do not know how I could get through this without them.”