It was July 3, 2010. I was 36 years old, unemployed (therefore, uninsured) when I was diagnosed with Stage 3B breast cancer. Having recently relocated from Florida to Milwaukee with my then-fiancé, I was visiting family back in Florida when I woke up one night with intense pain in my breast. Intuitively, I just knew something was wrong and as soon as I got back home, I went for an exam. A mammogram, ultrasound and 3 biopsies confirmed my worst fears: I had breast cancer that had already spread to 12 lymph nodes. My cancer was on the move.

My (now) husband and I went on lockdown for a couple of days. We cried, we screamed, we put our thinking caps on and came out as a team. I knew no good would come from staying stuck in my fear that would only cripple me. I needed to focus on healing.” Which is what I did. My husband and I got busy.

I’d heard Dr. Block speak a few years back in West Palm Beach, Florida, and thought to myself, ‘If I’m ever facing a diagnosis, that’s where I’m going.’ Which is what I did. I drove from Milwaukee to the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment in Skokie, and found exactly what I was looking for.

I knew my treatment had to be personalized. I couldn’t go to a doctor where nobody knew who I was. I needed to be heard, to feel understood. I truly believe that if we have a doctor who we don’t feel is listening to us, it will hinder our healing, and ultimately, our success. The Block Center not only educated me on my disease, they emotionally supported me. When I tell people what I did while I was receiving my chemotherapy, they don’t believe me!

Every day I wake up I get to choose what kind of diet I eat, whether or not I exercise, and how well I handle stress. When you’re first diagnosed, you feel like cancer has taken away your power. But now I know better. I still have choices, and every day I do my best to make choices that will support my health and improve my chances of remaining disease-free.

In February 2011, I had a bilateral mastectomy. Four months later, I had radiation and in September of this year, I finished breast reconstruction surgery. I’m cancer free and very happy! I have so much to look forward to. Next January, I’ll be off of the Tamoxifen and my husband and I are looking forward to starting a family. If women take anything from my story, let it be that this: You have choices. Take control of your health, be an active participant in your own well-being. Self-exams are important, regular screening is important. And there are options out there available to everyone.

Amberlea Childs