My name is Salyndria Gregory, but you can call me Sal. I am a young breast cancer warrior who fought cancer, and now have focused my attention on motivating and inspiring other young patients with breast cancer to conquer their fears.
My journey began on a hot summer day in July in Texas, when I went on a girls’ trip from Dallas to San Antonio. During that vacation, I discovered a small lump near my armpit. I was alarmed but remained calm and called my primary care physician.
Initially he told me I was too young for breast cancer. Finally, he agreed to examine me, which resulted in an immediate mammogram.
Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
A week later, I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, and a type known as triple-negative breast cancer, which is a less common type of breast cancer and is often diagnosed in younger women under age 40, and in African-American women.
Triple-negative breast cancer means the cancer does not involve estrogen or progesterone (hormones often associated with breast cancer) receptors or HER2 receptors, and most recent treatments have been developed for breast cancer with these receptors.
Triple-negative breast cancer is more difficult to treat than other types of breast cancer, because until very recently no new treatments have been developed for it, and the treatment is currently limited to surgery and chemotherapy, which weakens the immune system and can cause serious short-term and long-term side effects.
When I received my diagnosis, I was completely devastated, because there aren’t many triumphant stories about patients with triple-negative breast cancer. In addition, I lost my father to an aggressive cancer when I was a teenager, which has haunted me since then.
Fighting to Survive
However, I decided that I had to fight for myself, as well as for my dad, my mom, grandmother, but most important, for my 1-year-old son, who needed me more than anyone. If I wanted to take cancer head on, I needed to change my attitude from defeat to a positive approach, so I decided to remain myself—a gracious, loving, and joyful woman. I also began to rely heavily on my faith to help me get through such a dark time.
At one point in my journey, after crying each day for hours, thinking that my life was over, I decided that if I wanted to survive, I couldn’t do so in my current condition. I needed to gather strength, and the only way to do that was by spending time with God.
So I began to read 101 healing scriptures, where God said that I am already healed, and as I read them each day, they became embedded in my spirit, and I began to believe that I was, indeed, already healed.
From then on, I had a new zest about me that was inspirational and appealing to everyone I came in contact with. I took to social media to share my journey, and I was able to help and motivate others to learn to conquer the challenges they may be facing in their lives.
My energy, zest for life, and faith seemed to break many of the stereotypes of what a patient with cancer often is.
I told myself, okay Sal, this situation is really crappy, but it is out of my hands. I have given it over to God, so now my job is to remain myself, to try my best to live a normal life and have fun while doing it.
The Trials and Tribulations of Treatment
Since being diagnosed with breast cancer, I’ve gone through several surgeries, including a double mastectomy, with reconstruction, and I have had 3 months of chemotherapy, losing 100% of what once was thick, long hair, which I vainly admit was about the hardest part of this experience.
When my hair began to fall out at work, it was so embarrassing, and 2 days later, when I lost it all in clumps, I was completely devastated. But a couple of hours later, I wiped my wet face, put on jeans and heels, plopped on a wig, and went to a rooftop to enjoy the rest of the day. My mom looked at me in complete awe, especially because she was holding me like a baby 2 hours before. I knew then that God had given me strength that I did not have before.
I finished my chemo treatments in early 2018, and had one last surgery scheduled for March, before I could start to find my “new normal” as a young survivor.
Be Your Own Health Advocate
When asked what advice I have for young women, I tell my peers under age 40 to be their own health advocates. If something does not seem right, or you notice a change in your body, no matter how small, push for further evaluation, until you are satisfied.
Breast cancer in young women is one of the most ignored issues in preventive care, because it is supposed to have a low rate, but breast cancer in young women is not rare, and it can and does happen often.
Early detection is the key to increasing your chance for survival.
In addition, I believe that attitude is everything, not just with cancer, but with any obstacle in life. You can and will get through it, usually. If you have to cry sometimes, by all means, cry as much as you need. But continue to have faith, keep a positive attitude, and continue to smile and find joy through it all. We are all survivors in this thing called life.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Breast Cancer Foundation
Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation