Ten years after Hikisha Harris' breast cancer diagnosis, she's stepping into her purpose.
"I feel like I'm here for a reason," Harris said.
Harris believes her cancer journey and her faith led her to this moment in her life. She's a chaplain resident at the Richmond VA Medical Center.
"A bigger purpose for what God is preparing me for. For others. To be a light. To be an inspiration," Harris said.
By sharing her story, Harris hopes other patients can find their own inner strength.
She's been a type one diabetic since she was 11. At age 29, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"I said I feel something in my breast. It's hard. I don't know what that is," Harris remembered.
Harris was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. It's an aggressive form of cancer.
"I went and had my pity party, but I thank God I knew God before this. I knew him," Harris said.
With her constant smiles, Harris would have a mastectomy, chemotherapy, and radiation.
She would endure intense side effects including acute heart failure.
Before treatments even began, Harris who was a mom to a then two-year-old and was going through a separation made a decision that would change her life.
"I wanted to have more kids," Harris said.
Harris underwent fertility preservation to help her have children once the treatments were over.
Dr. Richard Lucidi is an expert in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at VCU Health.
"It used to be just survive the cancer," Dr. Lucidi said. "Now, it's survive the cancer with as few side effects as you can."
As more patients survive cancer, Dr. Lucidi said there are options for women, especially younger women, who want to get pregnant after cancer treatments.
He said depending on the chemo, the treatment can cause the ovaries to stop functioning.
"Destroying all the eggs. So, she will also stop making estrogen and makes her menopausal," Dr. Lucidi said.
Fertility preservation options include freezing a woman's embryos which comes with a $12,000 dollar price tag or $6,000 for freezing her eggs.
"We can aspirate out the egg. Same day we get the eggs, we freeze them," Dr. Lucidi said.
"Every time you get your treatment, you get a shot," Harris said.
Harris opted for the less expensive option.
The Leuprolide or Lupron shot suppresses the ovaries and puts the patient in temporary menopause.
Dr. Ludici offers the shot as an option but warns it's not 100-percent effective.
"I'm so grateful I had her," Harris said.
Harris' baby girl was born in 2019. Harris called her daughter a blessing because, after all of her cancer treatments, Harris can no longer have more children.
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