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‘The hardest part about having breast cancer was telling my 3-year-old daughter’

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Telling family and friends you have breast cancer can be tough, but telling your 3-year-old daughter can be even harder. At least that was the case for Amy Pouillon.

Amy and her husband Jonathan met with Dr. Willaim Burns, MD, at the Mon Health Surgical Care Suncrest location when he told the couple of the breast biopsy result Amy had breast cancer. Darryl Saunders, MD, an oncologist with the Mon Health Zelda Stein Weiss Cancer Center, confirmed the results and helped Amy with her treatments. Coping with the news, Amy didn’t shed a tear in the doctor’s office but focused on what the next steps would be.

“Since the biopsy was done a few days before my diagnosis, the results were constantly on my mind until the follow-up appointment with Dr. Burns,” Amy said. “When he told us the results, I wanted to move forward toward treatment. We were ready to take it on.”

Following the appointment, Amy was alone for the first time after hearing the news. She pulled to the side of Route 705 in Morgantown and broke down.

“It just hit me,” she said. “The only thing I could think of was the people I had to tell – my parents, my friends, my family and especially my daughter.”

Having lost her grandparents to cancer, Amy knew what the result of the disease could be. The same day she got the news, she told her parents that evening.

“Both my parents took it hard, but your parents want to protect you from everything, and this was something they couldn’t protect me from,” Amy said. “I told them I would need them during this journey and that we’d get through it together.”

Telling the rest of her extended family resulted in the same – hugs, tears and more support for the future. But it was telling her 3-year-old daughter that was the hardest. How do you explain to a 3-year-old what cancer is in a way they’ll understand?

“I told Olivia that mommy was sick,” Amy said. “And that I would have to be on medicine that could make me sick at times. I told her the medicine would make me lose my hair and I might look different.”

Olivia’s response – “It’s just hair.”

Amy didn’t want to keep anything from her daughter during this journey. She kept her daughter in the know when she had a double mastectomy, her six chemotherapy treatments and reconstruction surgery by Thomas McClellan, MD. When Amy got her port placed for chemotherapy treatments, her daughter called it “Mommy’s boo-boo button.”

“I would have treatments on a Friday with time to recover during the weekend,” Amy said. “I told Olivia that on the weekends I would be tired from those treatments.”

Amy began to lose her hair due to the treatments and shaved off the rest of her hair before it all fell out, with the help of her husband Jonathan their daughter Olivia and their 10-month-old son Alexander. And to her surprise, her dad shaved his head in support of her as well telling her he didn’t want her to be bald alone.

“I didn’t want to wear a wig, because I didn’t want my daughter seeing me take it off and on again,” Amy said. “I embraced the beauty of being bald, and my family and friends supported me doing so.”

Family, friends and co-workers were all there to support Amy when she needed it. One friend in particular who had cancer in her 20s was one of the many rocks Amy could lean on.

“I’m 32 years old with breast cancer,” she said. “My friend had gone through what I was going through, and it was nice to talk with someone who knew exactly how I was feeling physically and mentally. Giving up wasn’t an option. I’m grateful for everyone who showed me support.”

Amy is now in remission and encourages all women to do self-exams and not to be afraid to speak to a doctor if anything seems unusual.

Learn more about the Mon Health Zelda Stein Weiss Cancer Center.