Thriving after Breast and Liver Cancer
Nassif Community Cancer Center breast cancer survivor Ami Ward – at 11 weeks pregnant in 2005 – discovered she had stage two ductal carcinoma, a type of breast cancer. She was 32 years old. Dr. Rasa Buntinas offered two cancer treatment choices, a mastectomy and chemotherapy in her second trimester or abortion followed with a lumpectomy and radiation. Ami, already a mother of two, said abortion was not an option.
“I struggled with the fact that I was dying and yet giving life at the same time,” Ami said. “And the thought of my child having this horrific chemical put in her body and not having a choice was very disturbing. But with the results we have had, I would not have chosen any other way.”
Ami’s cancer story became more involved as she waited for her mastectomy. She discovered a spot in her groin area, which her doctors removed during her breast cancer surgery. It was a benign growth (called epitheliod hemangioma) generally associated with cancers of the lung and liver. Dr. Buntinas ordered a PET scan soon after Ami delivered a healthy baby girl. The scan revealed multiple lesions in her liver. She had a rare type of liver cancer and was referred to the Mayo Clinic for cancer treatment where they recommended a liver transplant.
“I was horrified knowing that my future was again uncertain,” Ami said. She researched cancer treatment options and three months after giving birth, she traveled with her family to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). During liver surgery, she had tumors removed or treated with radiofrequency ablation (high-frequency alternating electrical current) in the UPMC Liver Cancer Center. She’s now in remission for both cancers.
“The impact this has made on our lives is we try to live a big life and let those things that don’t matter go,” Ami said. “Even though the children were too small to remember, I discuss what happened to us. My husband has been a very large part of my healing process and was very supportive. As a family we continue to instill values that will help keep us whole and healthy. I have focused on exercise and diet. I feel more fit now than I was 10 years ago.”
A breast cancer survivor, Ami works out with a personal trainer, doing a regime she describes as “boot camp” and attends spin classes. “I need the energy I get from exercise, otherwise I feel fatigued,” she said. “I try to eat as healthy as I can, not much meat and lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.” Her family eats 80 percent organic food most of the year.
“I feel better than I’ve ever felt. My daughter is also doing well. She’s six years old and she’s a spitfire,” Ami said. Her doctor performs regular screenings at the Nassif Community Cancer Center Cancer Survivorship Clinic to make sure she’s still cancer free.