April Addison endured quite the wake-up call last summer when she was diagnosed with breast cancer and it couldn’t have come at a worse time. Not only is she just 32 years old, but she had just given birth to a baby boy a day before the diagnosis. She was healthy and in-shape, but that didn’t seem to matter.
“I was devastated. I asked, ‘How could this happen?’ I work out. I’m very healthy, I’m active. I don’t have a family history of breast cancer,” said Addison, an oncology nurse in the Atlanta area. “I asked ‘How long do I have left to live?’ because I just wasn’t sure what the prognosis was. I just had this baby,” she added.
Knowing she’s not the only one this can happen to – after all, it can happen to anyone – Addison is using her misfortune to warn other women of all ages to take the necessary preventive measures before ending up in her shoes. Whether you notice anything strange or not, women need to get tested for breast cancer.
Addison’s doctor, Dr. Amelia Zelnak, is doubling down on that sentiment – adding that, while it’s unusual for someone to get diagnosed at 32 years old, it’s not unheard of and can happen to anyone. “Just because it’s less common doesn’t mean that it can’t happen,” says Zelnak, also an oncologist in Atlanta.
For Addison, she started noticing the warning signs when she was six months pregnant with her son. She noticed a pea-sized lump on her left breast, but didn’t think anything of it and didn’t feel it was necessary to report to her obstetrician. It wasn’t until eight months into her pregnancy that she started to feel pain.
At that point, she talked to her doctor about the lump and subsequent pain. A breast ultrasound revealed a mass and three enlarged lymph nodes by her left nipple, which was followed by a biopsy. By the time the results from the biopsy got back to her, she had already given birth to her son – the day before.
That’s when she found out – she has stage 2 breast cancer and, instead of breastfeeding, she was going to start chemo in 2 weeks. “In my head, I’m like I have to be strong because I have to get chemotherapy and mentally I’ve got to prepare myself because I want to be here for my children,” said Addison.
April Addison Went From Oncology Nurse to Breast Cancer Patient
In her interview with TODAY, April Addison opened up about her transition from being an oncology nurse at Northside Hospital Forsyth in Cumming, Georgia to being a breast cancer patient in that very same hospital. It wasn’t an easy transition, but she had all of her friends and colleagues cheering her on.
“I did pretty well. I had some fatigue. My biggest thing was my hair loss, which I struggled with the most and then I had some bone pain from the chemotherapy. But I was able to get through treatment pretty OK,” she said, adding she had a hard time letting others care for her, since roles were usually reversed.
Addison ended up having a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction, which removed both of her breasts to reduce the risk of a second cancer forming in the breast. She’ll be receiving six weeks of radiation therapy and will undergo hormone therapy indefinitely while she recovers – but her prognosis is great.
Now that she has this experience, April Addison wants to make sure no one else has to go through something similar. “If you feel something, say something,” she says, urging others to take action when something doesn’t look or feel right – adding her two babies are all the motivation she needs moving forward.
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