Model Amber Denae Wright shares her experience with breast cancer, which she was diagnosed with at the age of 27.
Discover a knot
In March 2020, literally two weeks before the harsh lockdown, I got out of the shower one night and felt this really big lump on the right side of my breast. I hadn’t noticed it before. I was shocked how big it was. It was on the right side and luckily near the surface.
As a teenager, I was diagnosed with fibroadenomas, which are benign lumps that are quite common in young women. When I felt the knot I thought that was it. I was told that they can grow and change. Sometimes they have to be removed. But knowing I didn’t want any foreign objects in my body, I immediately called my gynecologist and made an appointment.
This appointment was canceled because we then imposed a hard lockdown. During that time, this thing bothered me constantly. I was very aware of that all along. It caused great pain. It was right there where your bra wire gets caught. I was firmly convinced that it was a fibroadenoma. I didn’t imagine the big C word for a second.
When I was referred to a breast surgeon, he examined me and said the way the breast felt and moved felt like a fibroadenoma. However, he recommended not undergoing surgery immediately due to the risk of contracting COVID while in the hospital. I followed this recommendation and another two months passed. Ultimately, it caused me great pain. I had trouble falling asleep at night and had trouble completing workouts as my sports bra was affected. In August, five months after discovering the lump, I finally decided to have the surgery.
They removed the knot and sent it off for testing. A week later I came back for a follow-up appointment. Everything felt quite normal, but then he called me into his office and first asked me when I found this knot. He said I shocked them all because the lump turned out to be cancerous.
I will never forget this moment in my life. Those were words I could never have heard, not even for a second, when I was 27 with breast cancer. The doctor immediately started going through my treatment plan, the nature of the diagnosis and the rest. I felt like I was watching this whole scene like I was out of my body because it was too much. And then he started talking about all the treatments and he said the word “chemotherapy.” When he said those words, I thought, “This is actually real.” And I immediately started crying. I was completely overwhelmed.
From that point on, I’ve been catapulted into 1001 different appointments, from scans to blood work. From there I went straight to the ultrasound and met with my oncologist the next day.
Since my husband Nick and I are new to children, our first port of call was to preserve my fertility (which chemotherapy can affect). We performed fertility treatment and frozen embryos. This included hormone injections, regular check-ups at a fertility facility and the removal of my eggs. It was the craziest weeks of my life. Once the embryos were frozen, it was time to start chemotherapy.
My chemotherapy treatment lasted 16 rounds over five months. Two weeks after my first chemotherapy my hair started to fall out. It was one of my biggest fears. Every day I woke up there was more hair on my pillow and more hair on my floor and every coat I wore. It totally got me and it became very overwhelming.
There came a point when my husband had to help me shave. It was a moment I could never imagine in my life.
Amber in treatment
My life with breast cancer
At first, I was determined to continue with everything I had been doing: working full-time, exercising, and staying healthy. During lockdown I had started Raise the Barre, an online barre course. Before I had surgery, I literally felt the strongest, fittest and healthiest. One of the hardest things was watching that slowly wear off as I was getting weaker and unable to exercise as much.
During the first few weeks of chemotherapy, when I still had energy, I tried to exercise as much as possible. But chemotherapy weakens you over time. I had a debilitating headache and couldn’t take many painkillers because my organs were already under so much strain from the chemotherapy. Some days around 2 or 3 o’clock I would just fall and literally feel like I couldn’t keep my head up. Because of this, I decided to quit my job and focus on fighting cancer.
I also sought therapy to help me maintain a positive state of mind consistently. That helped me a lot, because there are many dark, hard thoughts that you don’t want to burden other people with.
Amber rings after her last chemotherapy
After chemotherapy, it was time for surgery. Since I didn’t test positive for any cancer gene mutation, I decided to have a lumpectomy, which removed the lump and surrounding tissue. When they first operated on me to remove the lump, they operated as if it wasn’t cancer, so they didn’t do what they would normally do, which is cut around it and close up all the tissue and tumor removed .
In the end, a lot of tissue was removed and the left breast had to be reduced to match the right one. In the end it was a massive operation. I also received daily radiation for 5 weeks and am currently on hormonal therapy (Tamoxifen and Zolodex) for 5 years.
In October 2021, after all my active treatments were completed, I had an MRI which was all clear and confirmed I was in remission. When I was dealing with cancer, I felt like I was in survival mode, trying to get through every single day. When my entire treatment was complete, I had to process a lot of emotions and heal myself mentally.
Even though my life is very different now and I will have to undergo regular check ups and scans for the rest of my life and even though I have had to make lifestyle changes and cuts, there was so much good to come from this difficult journey. It has made me a better person, helped me become more confident about who I am, and made me realize what I need to be thankful for.
I was given a fresh start and I now know that I can do and be whatever I want because I’ve proven to myself and everyone around me how strong I am. I am so thankful for my life and the people I have been blessed with
I’ve really tried to embrace this new version of myself and deal with all the consequences of cancer. My life is different but it’s beautiful and I’m so blessed to be here.
Now Amber, cancer free