After an annual mammogram in June 2022, Arnel was called back for a follow-up 3D ultrasound, then biopsy. Soon after, her pathology report confirmed Stage 1, Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. The good news was that it was small and caught early, and a lumpectomy was scheduled. However, two days before her surgery, her genetic panel came back confirming she also had the BRCA 1+ gene mutation.
Too late to switch gears and opt for the double mastectomy, she proceeded with the lumpectomy because of the aggressive and unpredictable nature of her triple-negative tumor. Following surgery she began six months of chemotherapy and then revisited the options available because of her BRCA+ status. Now, more than a year after her initial diagnosis, she is scheduled for a double mastectomy later this month. And, because she is high risk for a recurrence or new cancers to develop, the plan is that when she returns for her exchange surgery in a few months, she will undergo a complete hysterectomy as well.
The road has been long for Arnel, but she has faced each step head-on. "My philosophy, all along this journey, has been to follow the science and just keep a positive attitude," she explains.
Fortunately, her positive attitude has found the ideal environment to flourish at Carolina breast Friends.
Arnel's Nurse Navigation at LCI Rock Hill suggested it was time for her to meet some "real people" who are quite literally walking along the same journey as her. And just like that, CBF's Walking with My Breast Friends at Riverwalk in Rock Hill allowed her the opportunity to meet others who were facing, or had faced, the same challenges.
Shares Arnel, "It was there that I first met Carrie (Williams, former Director of Programs, now volunteer) and a group of remarkable women who really understood what I was feeling. While walking, Carrie told me about many of the wonderful things that The Pink House has to offer, such as wigs, hats and scarves as I was just about to begin 6 months of chemotherapy treatments. Arnel continues, "Funny how my first fear was about losing my hair, not the actual cancer itself. CBF provided wigs to help me feel confident and empowered each time I stepped out."
Arnel is still an active participant in Walking with My Breast Friends in Rock Hill, and she also started visiting The Pink House for jewelry-making classes and other activities last fall.
"I found The Pink House to be a safe haven, filled with love and support," she says. "This is where my Higher Power put me, so that I, too, can share my experience, strength, and hope with others that embark on this journey."