What can be learned from this journey is there can be joy found within this journey. A joy that could never have been planned or anticipated. Also, there is courage, strength, resilience and perseverance embedded in her journey. Amy Ngo is 39 years old, currently a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband have an 18 month old daughter. She was diagnosed with de novo metastatic breast cancer 17 months ago, August 2022 (one month after her baby was born). They live in Southeast Portland..

Prior to Amy’s pregnancy they both held stressful jobs: Amy, a clinical pharmacist at an infusion pharmacy and her husband Jason a neurocritical care nurse. They envisioned themselves to have two children, be working parents and then come home to their children when off work. Since they are both planners they asked their doctor about any high-risk factors and if they could safely become parents due to their ages; Amy age 36 and Jason age 40. They were given the “go-ahead” to become parents.  She became pregnant in May 2021 and the pregnancy came with unrelenting back pain as early as six weeks and a miscarriage at nine weeks. The back pain was blamed on the pregnancy by her doctors.

Pregnancy was to bless their lives again. Their daughter was born in July 2022. Although, the journey to motherhood was nothing that Amy had anticipated. She experienced severe back pain for most of her pregnancy, which again started in the early first trimester. Their baby girl was born healthy, but mom was not okay. She was told that she would be better within two weeks, which didn’t happen. When she came home from the hospital, she had to use a walker, couldn’t go up and down stairs (bedrooms were upstairs) and was not able to pick up her baby. She was 100% reliant on her husband for everything, including taking care of her and the baby. She had her mother-in-law from out of town come and stay with them for a month to assist them. A month after the birth of her daughter, she and her husband met with her PCP to request an MRI to be done on her spine. The MRI was scheduled two weeks later. Just one hour after coming home from the MRI, she was sitting in a chair breastfeeding her baby, when she received a call from her doctor telling her that they found metastatic cancer in her bones. Amy remembers feeling like this was a joke; there had to be a mistake. The doctors must have had her scans mixed up with somebody else’s. She was in disbelief. “There’s no way this could be true. Please re-read the scan and tell me you read it wrong,” was what she was thinking. A few more scans and tests later, her oncologists asked her to stop breast feeding her daughter. A lump had been found in her left breast. She was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her lymph nodes, bones and liver.

Her protocol for her treatment was strictly mapped out for her since she had a terminal disease and her medical staff wanted to do their best to inhibit the growth of the cancer. Her treatments included numerous sessions of radiation of her spine, and hormone and ovarian suppression. These treatments caused her numerous side effects. She was also being treated for multiple fractures and a collapsed vertebrae.  She began physical therapy, acupuncture and massage therapy. About three months into her rigorous and various treatments she was diagnosed as clinically depressed. She had posed questions like “Would life for my loved ones be better without me?” She felt like she was a burden to everyone. Her mental health was added to her treatments. Although Amy considered herself a “zombie” in these early days and weeks, she attributes her mental healing and strength from meetings with her counselor at the cancer center, and joining support groups through Cancer for Breakfast and Pink Lemonade Project. About six months after diagnosis, she remembers being able to feel strong enough to look back at those early days and feel sorry for her then-self. Her strength allowed her to persevere through this challenging time. Amy recently had successful surgery for removal of her ovaries.

She would like to thank the Pink Lemonade Project for helping her find her community. She signed up for many activities for metastatic breast cancer survivors. The various events gave her hope for the future. “Some events are purely educational in nature. Then some events are all fun, and you don’t have to talk about breast cancer at all. Or you talk about breast cancer in such a way that doesn’t make you want to cry! Those are the best.” Amy has found how important it is to reach out to other metastatic breast cancer survivors showing she is not alone in her journey, providing her hope.

Currently Amy is stable. She gets a CT scan of her vital organs and a bone scan every three months to monitor the development of the cancer. She feels she has no limitations on her activity. She continues to have hope that she can live like this for many more years.  With the cancer remaining stable. She had a bone scan in December 2023 and it showed that her disease is stable.

Amy and her husband are creating a new adventure in their life. They are moving to Richmond, Virginia in April 2024 for a change of scenery. She plans to continue treatment there.

Although cancer is the last thing Amy would ever wish for herself, she says “it has given me permission to stop worrying about work and other things that don’t matter anymore. Focus on my family, my husband and my daughter. Go on adventures and do what brings me joy!”

It is amazing that Amy has come so far in this journey to find joy in her everyday life. And realizing how much courage, strength, resilience and perseverance she possesses.

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