Artelia’s Triumph: Empowering Self-Advocacy in the Face of Breast Cancer
— Abby Padilla, ABCD Marketing & Communications Specialist
August 24, 2023
Artelia’s experience with breast cancer is one of courage, resilience, and unwavering self-advocacy. It began with several heartbreaking miscarriages in her early thirties, followed by a troubling discharge from her breasts. Despite being dismissed by doctors who said she was too young for a mammogram, Artelia refused to ignore the signs her body was sending her. She recalled thinking, “That’s not normal, and I knew it wasn’t. I couldn’t stop worrying about it.”
Artelia underwent her yearly check-ups with her primary care physician. However, when she expressed her desire to have a mammogram, she encountered resistance. Her doctor’s reasoning was that, since there was no family history of breast cancer, she should wait until the age of 50 for regular mammograms. Artelia, guided by her intuition, remained resolute, refusing to accept “no” as the final answer.
With persistence and advocacy, Artelia had her first mammogram at the age of 40 which revealed an abnormality. She underwent an ultrasound and biopsy, but nothing was detected. Year after year, she faced the same routine, with no definitive diagnosis. But Artelia remained persistent. ” I couldn’t gamble with my life and ignore the issues,” she said. She continued monitoring her breasts for any changes and stayed up to date on her mammograms.
Then, in 2022 Artelia’s fear became a reality. A biopsy result came back positive for Stage 1 breast cancer. Artelia decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy. “I saw it as God blessing me with additional years, and I didn’t want to take any chances,” she said.
Artelia made it clear to her medical team that she wanted to be actively involved in her health care. “I educated myself, asked questions, and participated in every decision,” she said. “I knew I had to be my own advocate.”
Recovering from the double mastectomy was far from easy. Artelia faced complications, from failed implants, infections and blood clots in the lungs which is possibly a side effect from the drug prescribed (Tamoxifen). Nevertheless, she maintained her positive outlook. “I have no regrets,” she said. “This journey taught me to sit still, focus on me, and choose life.”
Throughout her experience, Artelia noticed disparities within the medical field, especially for people of color. She emphasized the importance of building a team of doctors who listen and treat you as an individual, respecting and acknowledging your unique experiences.
As she continued to heal, Artelia found strength in sharing her story. “If my story can inspire even one person to get checked or take action, then it’s worth sharing,” Artelia said. She actively advocates for breast cancer awareness and early detection. “I speak to women about it because they need to know. I found being my own advocate empowered me to make the best choices for my health and well-being.”
Artelia discovered ABCD: After Breast Cancer Diagnosis when she was provided a brochure. In May 2023, Artelia was matched with her Mentor, who had a similar experience and diagnosis and has helped her cope. Artelia is hoping to become a Mentor once she feels the time is right.
Artelia’s experience is a testament to the power of self-advocacy and the importance of trusting one’s instincts. In her words, “the biggest blessing one possesses is life, so why not cherish it despite the obstacles one is facing? Obstacles create strength, courage, resilience, and knowledge.” Her story continues to inspire others to seek answers, find support, and live purposefully, no matter the challenges they face.
Artelia Flowers was diagnosed in 2022 with Stage 1 Lobular ER+PR+HER2- breast cancer. Her treatment included a bilateral mastectomy and implant reconstruction.
The Washington Post recently published an article which highlights the increasing incidence of breast cancer among younger women and their urgent quest for answers and support. Read the article here: More young women are getting breast cancer. They want answers. – The Washington Post