[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
Just as everyone’s individual breast cancer diagnosis is different, everyone’s life circumstances when they are diagnosed is also different. The emotional support of family, friends and others can be important to help you as you go through diagnosis, treatment and recovery. You might also have to lean on others to help with childcare or to help with daily chores. Costs related to breast cancer can also quickly become a financial burden. Even if you have insurance and your co-payment for a single bill is low, these costs can add up if you get may bills from just one procedure from multiple departments included in your treatments. It’s OK to ask for help and there are many resources available for people with breast cancer. Today’s guest is Shareka Allen. Shareka is a young, independent mother who advocated for herself when she knew that something just wasn’t quite right and had to learn to ask for help along the way. She’s here today to tell her story. Shareka, welcome to the show!
[00:01:16] Shareka Allen: Thanks for having me.
[00:01:17] Adam Walker: I’m excited to talk. I love that description. That you’re an independent young mother. I like, that’s a good description. That’s I like that.
[00:01:24] Shareka Allen: I love that.
[00:01:26] Adam Walker: That’s right. That’s right. Well, that’s what we’re looking for here. It’s going to be great. So let’s start from the beginning. How did you know that something was wrong?
And what was the process like being diagnosed with breast?
[00:01:38] Shareka Allen: Wow. Knowing something was wrong with actually just being self-aware and knowing my body. Um, I felt alone and people told me, well, it may be, it’s always been there. And just me being aware of my body. Um, I can’t stress that enough. It’s how you should be aware of your body.
I knew that that lump had not been there and I just voiced that I couldn’t voice it no more that it just had not been there. The process was. Fairly easy. Given the circumstances. I say that because, um, when I got diagnosed is right when coronavirus, so I beat everything alone. I went to the doctor alone.
Um, I just need everything along and it was fairly easy. Um, I initially went to. Gynecology. And I told her something was wrong. And of course, because of my age, at the time I was 28, she was like, oh, you’re too young. But she trusted me enough to just go with the process. And it went off pretty quickly. It was, um, you’re too young to let’s go next door right now to get a mammogram to is breast cancer.
Let’s go ahead and find a doctor. I think I found the lump in February, may the first I had my first chemo, so it went pretty quickly.
[00:03:04] Adam Walker: Wow. And so, so what did you do next? I mean, how did you even process the information once you found out that you had breast cancer? I mean, like walk through that process for us.
[00:03:18] Shareka Allen: I already knew that it was breast cancer. I know this sounds crazy. Like how did you know you don’t know? I knew, I just felt like even, um, after telling everybody and they was like, oh, it could be benign. I just knew. Um, how did I process it? I process everything. I kind of just stayed to myself until I can just wrap my head around what was happening after I did the mammogram and the doctor told me it was breast cancer before we even did the biopsy and she was like, it’s breast cancer and it’s pretty bad.
I came back to work. Wow. Um, I know the car ride back from the doctor to work was quiet and I came back to work and I told a workforce. That I had breast cancer and I cried. And then after I stopped crying, I came in my office and I closed the door and I was like, we gotta get through this. Cause you got a key.
So whatever it is, it’s just, it is. And you’re just gonna have to pick it up and going to get through it. And that’s how I processed it. And that’s how I maintained it throughout the whole journey. Um, cause there’s a hard journey. So anytime that I got sad was we just gonna have to get through it? Cause you have a kid and that’s.
[00:04:33] Adam Walker: I mean, that’s a, that’s a great way to look at the kids are a, an amazing motivator in so many ways. Right. So many
[00:04:40] Shareka Allen: ways.
[00:04:40] Adam Walker: Yeah. And so you mentioned that you started, I think you said you mentioned started chemo in may. So what was that treatment like and kind of, what’s your, what’s your treatment status now?
[00:04:51] Shareka Allen: Um, I’m in remission now. Um, so no treatment, I go to the doctor once a month. I mean, once a year, If something comes up, but right now, luckily nothing’s come up. We’re good. Um, chemo, chemo was the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. This is the hardest thing that I’ve ever done in my life. And I’ve been through a lot and I felt like childbirth was going to kill me.
This was worse than childbirth. I’ll do childbirth over and over again. Before I decide to ever want to go through this, chemo was hard. It was hard. Um, I recorded a lot during chemo of videos of just me crying to myself because it was hard. And it’s something that you just feel like you can’t beat physically, like, you know, like no practice.
You can’t do no practice. Like if I’m bad at basketball, I can just practice the practice and I get it. It wasn’t like that with chemo. It was just like, you forced, you was forced to go through it. And it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I had six rounds of it. It was so hard for me that I only did five and I told my oncologist, I cannot do another round of chemo.
I’m sorry. This is. My body will not, um, be able to take another route. Um, it’s a lot mentally, too. I think probably if I would’ve stayed in the mindset of you have to do it, then I could have done, but mentally and physically, I was tired.
[00:06:24] Adam Walker: Yeah. Wow. That sounds like a lot. And so when you were going through all of that, did you have a good support system to help you through it?
[00:06:34] Shareka Allen: Yes, I did. Um, you, you have to have a good support system to get through this. I don’t understand or see how people could do it alone. Um, and I’m very strong. I consider myself a very strong individual and I get through a lot of things by myself, but some days were just extremely harder than others and I needed that extra push or that extra help or someone who just, just sit on the bed and watch me cry.
You know, just someone there in the physical.
[00:07:03] Adam Walker: Hmm. Yeah. Yeah. That’s great. And that’s, that’s so important. I moved to, I’ve talked to so many people in this podcast that recognize that that community, that support structure is just so critical, uh, to, to just health and mental health in general. Right. So, uh, so you were, you know, you’re, you’re young mother going through this.
I mean, how were you able to balance being able to take care of your son and go through chemo on the hard days?
[00:07:32] Shareka Allen: Um, he helped me through the hard days, um, which is so funny. Um, he would say, um, today it’s chemo day, so he knew, um, and at the time he was like three or four. He knew if it’s the chemo day, we’re going to just lay in a bed.
He’s very independent as well. And he would grab the iPad. You know, kids are addicted to YouTube and get the YouTube and he’ll lay next to me and we’ll just figure it out. I lived alone. Um, cause I didn’t want help. I wanted help, but I didn’t want help. If that makes any sense. I stayed in my own place and I wanted to maintain his life.
I didn’t want his life to stop because of what I was going through. So I went to work every day. I went to daycare every day. He played soccer. He did any extracurricular activities that he wanted to do. And if I needed a minute, I would take a minute like those five or two minutes and just know like, let me, let me regroup.
And then I’m coming. And I just mentally forced myself to do it. Like tell myself you have no choice. He depends on you. So you got to do it. And that’s how I got.
[00:08:42] Adam Walker: Yeah. I mean that like, like we’ve said earlier, I mean, kids are an amazing motivator and you can, you can summon a lot more strength. I think, recognizing that they need you, right?
[00:08:52] Shareka Allen: Yes. I don’t given the circumstances if it was different than I didn’t have him. I don’t know if I would’ve had so much strength. And in that mindset of you got to do it, I think I probably would have been like, oh no, but he kept me going.
[00:09:07] Adam Walker: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that’s great. That’s great. So, so we talked about. Uh, you know, supportive friends and family.
I also want to talk about financial support because not only does Komen help fund research, but Komen also helps in other ways. Uh, and a couple of those, you know, being, providing resources online or assistance if someone has financial difficulties. So I understand that you utilize some of Komen services.
Tell me about that experience and what was that like for you?
[00:09:36] Shareka Allen: Um, it’s an experience. Um, it’s still, it’s not a lot of fun. You know, you think like cancer and all these people donate it. And then once you’re in it, you’d be like, Hey, or if it is funds out there, they make you jump through hoops. Like send me your doctor’s note to me that it’s like a long list of stuff you have to see.
And, um, so when I found the Komen, um, financial help, I didn’t think it was going to work. If I just being quite honest, I was like, oh, this is not an.
The same day, they emailed me back and was like, you got. One
[00:10:12] Adam Walker: same day,
[00:10:17] Shareka Allen: your money will be in your account tomorrow and tomorrow, the next day, the money was going to get count and it was very easy and it was very smooth. They didn’t ask for like a lot of documentation. It was pretty easy to move over. Have your doctor sent over your treatment plan or like different statements that you’re going through it.
And I did. And it was just a, like a little something simple, nothing too major. And the same day, like I said, they approval. It was very easy. Um, I actually met someone going through this who was, um, we were going through, we had the same kind of cancer. We were going through it together and I texted her. I was like, Hey, try these.
And then she tried it and she was like, oh, I got approved. It was very, extremely easy.
[00:11:00] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s fantastic. That’s so good to hear. I mean, it’s, you can’t even get a bank account in the same day. Like that’s fantastic. So I love that. Okay. Well, you know, and I really love, you know, the aspect of your story, about how you, you advocated for yourself along the way.
I mean, and not just with your own health. Really weren’t taking you seriously, but then also, I mean, you have, you took the time to advocate for yourself to get the financial support that you needed as well. Right. And I think that’s a huge part of your story. Um, so why do you think that’s so important and what do you want our listeners to know about that?
[00:11:37] Shareka Allen: Advocating for yourself is so important. We are all human. So in something, someone can make a mistake, it can be overlooked. Things can be not taken as serious. So you need to advocate for yourself, especially if you feel something is wrong, because I was already at stage three with it, had moved to my lips and had I not advocated for myself.
My doctor wanted me to wait another three to four months to come back and it could have spread it. Um, so the advocating for myself, I do truly believe saved my life advocating for others and financial. It’ll just help you in this situation. Having that self doubt would have made me miss out on the finances I needed at that time.
Um, so. Uh, I feel like the listeners should advocate for yourself, advocate for the ones around you advocate for people down the street. You don’t know who you think might be in a situation or who you feel like is an advocate because it is, it hits home when it’s, when it’s you, when it’s your family, but you don’t know how many millions of people go through it.
When I walked into the chemo room, the first day I text my mom, It’s so many people in here, and I had no idea that it was even a cancer center. It was, it was set up like that. It was so many people that go through it. But along my journey, I’ve realized so many people every day is affected and they need help.
We need help. And we, it doesn’t hurt to help the next person that’s right.
[00:13:09] Adam Walker: It never hurts to help the next person. I love that. I love that mentality, so, well, I mean, this has been amazing. I mean, do you have any final advice you’d like to share?
[00:13:22] Shareka Allen: Yeah, if you can, it doesn’t matter if it’s $5, $25, $30, please donate.
And please, please, please, please know your body and advocate for yourself. Cause you’re helping yourself. You’re helping someone and we all need that help.
[00:13:42] Adam Walker: That is, I mean, that’s a perfect summation right there. Uh, donate an advocate. That’s a, that’s a good, that’s a good way to think about it. All right.
All right. Well, Shareka, such a pleasure to talk to you. Thank you so much for joining us on the show today and just for sharing your story and your life with us. And, uh, just thank you for all that.
[00:14:02] Shareka Allen: No. Thank you guys. Thank you guys so much for the opportunity. Thank you.
[00:14:10] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com