Cancer in the Breast That’s Not “Breast Cancer”? Young Survivor Sierra Galvez Beats Rare Disease and Resumes Career Plan

Publication:

The Dallas Morning News
by David Buice, Belo Content Studio

Cancer can strike any of us at any time. Sierra Galvez knows this all too well. At age 18, she was diagnosed with a breast angiosarcoma, a very rare — and aggressive — form of cancer.

For Sierra, the first hint that all was not right came early one morning in the fall of 2016. A habitual stomach-sleeper, she began feeling pain in her breasts upon waking. Adopting a wait and see attitude, she tried to remain carefree. But the pain did not go away. In time, other symptoms emerged, including redness and swelling in her left breast.

Upon examining Sierra, her physician suspected an infection and prescribed antibiotics. Seeing little improvement after two rounds of medication, Sierra’s doctor referred her to Dr. Allison DiPasquale, surgical oncologist at Texas Breast Specialists—Methodist Charlton Cancer Center, a part of Texas Oncology. Dr. DiPasquale immediately recognized that something wasn’t right and ordered the appropriate testing.

Facing a Surprising Diagnosis

An extensive series of tests finally led to a surprising diagnosis: primary angiosarcoma of the breast.

Given the extremely serious nature of her condition, Sierra began treatment the following week. According to Dr. Eric Nadler, medical oncologist at Texas Oncology—Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center, “Angiosarcoma of the breast is exceptionally rare, spreads rapidly and is treated like other sarcomas rather than traditional breast cancer. Chemotherapy, radiation and surgical resection are all involved in both cases, but the drug choices, doses and order involved in treating angiosarcoma are quite different.”

Chemotherapy came first. Three to four hours a day, Monday through Friday, Sierra underwent treatment at Texas Oncology—Methodist Charlton Cancer Center, taking an additional dosage home with her. Her thick mane of long, curly hair — a vital part of her identity — began to thin and fall out after 12 days. Undaunted, Sierra gave herself a buzz cut.

Fighting Her Disease as a College Student

All the while, Sierra also continued her studies in broadcast journalism at the University of North Texas, only dropping out long enough in the spring of 2017 to undergo a mastectomy. This surgery was followed by two more rounds of chemotherapy, then daily doses of radiation.

The treatment ultimately took its toll on both Sierra’s body and spirit. By September of last year, she was exhausted. One afternoon, and with yet another medical appointment looming, Sierra broke down in tears, telling her father that she didn’t want to continue. “I just didn’t want to do it anymore,” she recalls.

What Sierra didn’t know, however, was that she had won. She went through with her appointment that day and received the news that she was cancer-free.

Turning Her Challenges Into Action

Sierra underwent reconstructive breast surgery this summer and has since resumed her studies. This semester, she is serving as an intern in a program supported by the Ryan Seacrest Foundation, preparing and presenting audio-visual programs for patients at a local children’s hospital. Sierra loves the work, as it allows her to share her story of survival with other young people living with cancer — all while gaining valuable experience for her future career in broadcast journalism. 

Remembering the fight for her life, Sierra gives full credit to her doctors at Texas Oncology and to her family: her father, mother, sisters and brother, Miguel, who is also a cancer survivor. With their support, Sierra says, she now realizes just how precious life is. “Truly,” Sierra observes, “every day is a gift.”

Texas Oncology offers a broad array of cancer treatment options, and their specialists are dedicated to providing patients and their loved ones with leading-edge cancer care. To learn more about Texas Oncology’s services, visit www.texasoncology.com.

Read the full story at The Dallas Morning News.

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