Fatima Henderson is woman on the go. She loves being outdoors, running, volunteering and finding ways to help others. To look at her, you wouldn’t imagine that she’s already been through breast cancer, double mastectomies and several reconstructive surgeries.
In her 20s, Fatima had a bloody discharge from her left breast but the initial tests came back negative. Thankfully, her doctor wanted to investigate further, and that meant a mammogram and biopsy that verified she did have cancer – ductal carcinoma in situ.
Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is the most common type of non-invasive breast cancer. It’s considered non-invasive because the cancer hasn’t spread beyond the milk duct to other normal breast tissue, but it does increase the risk of developing a more aggressive breast cancer later in life.
“Getting this news was a large pill to swallow. You have plans, and those plans are being deferred in this fight for your life,” says Fatima. “My second opinion was with Dr. Valle, and he helped develop a plan that saved me from unnecessary treatment.”
One Step at a Time
In April 2013, Fatima had her first surgery where her left breast was removed. After her recovery, she decided to also have her right breast removed as a precaution and because of her risk of developing cancer in the future. Fatima was one of the youngest patients ever cared for by Alvaro Valle, M.D., and she also developed a close relationship with his nurse, Debbie, and medical assistant, Emory. After she recovered, Fatima began working at University Surgical and gets to see Dr. Valle regularly.
“Dr. Valle and his staff were so compassionate and played a vital role in my recovery. I feel like they are part of my family,” Fatima says. “I love that I get to hug Dr. Valle every day.”
Finding her “New Normal”
Today, Fatima is cancer free but still has a few more surgeries to go before she is back to where she wants to be physically. For her, completing these reconstructive steps is helping her find her “new normal.” She also spends time raising awareness about breast cancer particularly for younger women and encouraging women to understand their family history so they’re more prepared if the unthinkable happens.
“Knowing what’s normal for your own body is so important, and women need to speak up and advocate for their own health,” Fatima says. “I’m still on this journey, and I couldn’t have made it this far without my relationship with God and the amazing support and encouragement I’ve received from my family, friends, my boyfriend, Keithen, and my medical team.”
Click here to learn more about the Breast Services at University Surgical Associates or call (423) 267-0466.