Introduce yourself (Name, where you’re from) - What was your life like before undergoing chemotherapy?

Niya Kight, Washington, DC

Before undergoing chemotherapy, my life was hectic. My time centered around raising my oldest, working as a teacher full-time, teaching tap dance part-time, and maintaining my household. I spent little time in the house. Leaving during the early hours to take my son to school and returning home after the sunset. After school/work, I often had a mother-son outing planned for use when I didn't have dance class.

Bring us along your journey – when were you diagnosed with cancer? What was your initial reaction?

On November 1, 2019 (my 31st birthday), I was diagnosed with ER/PR+ Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. It was grade III, stage IIB. I was 12 weeks pregnant at the time. Before receiving my diagnosis, my inner voice confirmed that I had breast cancer; I was still devastated initially because a celebratory time had just become a whirlwind.

What was your first chemotherapy treatment like? What treatment/treatments did you or are currently undergoing?

My first chemotherapy treatment was a red carpet experience. Since my oncologist felt bad that I had to battle cancer during my pregnancy, she wanted to make each experience as comfortable and positive as possible. She provided me with a private room, and my brother and former teacher attended with me. It was a day that I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude. My mindset had started to shift to embracing the moment and surrendering to the unknown. In December 2019, I had a successful unilateral mastectomy, then completed four rounds of AC, delivered my daughter, completed four rounds of Taxol, and finished treatment with 33 rounds of radiation.

Who did you turn to as your support system?

My support system consisted of my parents, my son, and at the time, my daughter in my womb. My parents provided me a place to stay when I needed to heal and comforted and care for myself and my son as needed. My son distracted me with laughter and activities. My daughter was the one who experienced the first half of treatment with me. When no one else could attend chemotherapy, she was right there in my stomach, providing comfort. I also had several friends that cooked, cleaned, and helped as needed.

What is something you wished you knew before starting your chemo treatment?

I wish I knew that the Benedryl was going to knock me out. Honestly, it's the best sleep I ever received, but I initially came to treatment expecting to catch up on some things for myself since it was such a long day. But nope, the Benadryl had other plans :) I must admit that the support system and community I gained on IG helped me prepare for chemotherapy treatment. For that, I am forever grateful and pass along what was shared with me as often as possible.

Have there been certain side effects that have been worse than others?

Even though my doctor expected AC side effects to be horrific, that was not my experience. But Taxol, on the other hand, kicked my booty. It exhausted me, and my white blood cells recovered less quickly. I had to rely on the Neulasta patch, which made me immobile. Imagine caring for a newborn baby with a lack of mobility—one of the toughest challenges I faced.

What are tips/tricks you have learned along the way to help with chemo side effects?

It's difficult for me to answer this question because I was pregnant for AC, so I don't know what side effects resulted from chemo or pregnancy. But spraying my nails with tea tree oil and water during Taxol prevented my nails from changing colors or falling off.

Do you recommend any chemo friendly products?

Camwell Botanicals has some amazing hand cream for the dry skin. It soothed and healed my hands.

Any advice for other chemo patients?

Surrender to the process, and don't compare your experience to anyone else's. Chemo impacts our bodies differently. Embrace the experience as it's unfolding for you. Yes, this is a time of great uncertainty and fear, but it forces us to slow down, pay attention and honor the needs of our bodies.