It was 2015 when Arlette Hagans, then 56, noticed a bloody discharge from the nipple of her right breast. Thinking it was an infection, she applied antibiotic ointment to the area and soon the bleeding stopped. A visit to a doctor and a mammogram were out of the question, since the then unemployed mother of two was uninsured. In 2017 she once again detected a bloody discharge from that same breast.
Arlette, who by then was employed and insured, went for a mammogram and breast ultrasound. The tests did not reveal any abnormal findings, but a radiologist suspected cancer after examining her and recommended she follow up with a breast surgeon.
After performing a biopsy, the surgeon called Arlette to his office. There, he told her she had stage III invasive ductal carcinoma of the right breast, an advanced stage of the disease that has spread throughout the breast.
The news turned her world “upside down,” said Arlette, now 61, who ran from the office and “cried and screamed” upon learning the diagnosis.
Treatments designed to save her life took their toll on her. Before having both breasts removed, Arlette endured 15 weeks of chemotherapy and then underwent five grueling reconstructive surgeries, with one implant ultimately failing. “I agreed to have the right implant removed,” she said. “I didn’t want to go under (anesthesia) anymore. I had had enough.” To top it off, Arlette needed three months of five-day a week radiation treatments.
While friends and family rallied around her, says the cancer survivor of four years, “God was the 'main part.'” “He walked me through and has given me another chance at life. I thank him (God) every day.”
Arlette stresses the value of routine check-ups and follow-through and urges men and women to “get checked right away, so you can catch it in time. Stay positive and don’t let cancer win you; you win the cancer because you can be a survivor and a warrior.”