Published: Thursday, May 5, 2016
"In whatever I do, I tell myself that I'm going to do it or die trying." This is the motivation behind the crown that sits atop of Sarah White's head as she looks around the waiting room filled with fellow patients at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center at Cabell Huntington Hospital. She was recently crowned Mrs. West Virginia All Star USA after being diagnosed with reoccurring breast cancer.
"I was recently diagnosed with stage four, triple negative breast cancer," said White. This is her second battle with the disease and she says she plans to beat it again.
At the age of 33, White received the news that she would need to undergo surgery to have both breasts removed and undergo cancer treatment. "So, what did I do? I decided to participate in Dancing with the Tri-State Stars to help raise money for Ebenezer Outreach," said White. "I wasn't going to just sit and let my cancer take over. I was going to do something positive."
Although she and her dance partner didn't win the competition, she did come out a winner after a double mastectomy, five months of chemotherapy and 28 rounds of radiation to fight any remaining cancer in her body.
"I went through a lot, but through it all I had the support of family and friends and most importantly my nurses and doctors at the hospital," she said. White had reconstructive breast surgery and returned to work with the same positivity she had before she left for battle.
"Being positive and having positive support helped me get through so much. I do believe it will help me get through the next battle that is now in front of me," she said.
In the fall of 2015, White began having symptoms that she thought were associated with asthma. Then her arm began to hurt.
"I really just thought I was overdoing it. And then a knot popped up on my chest and I knew something was wrong," she said.
White's doctor, Maria Tria Tirona, MD, medical oncologist at the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center, ordered an ultrasound and after reviewing the results asked White to come in for an emergency biopsy.
"She doesn't have a poker face and she has always been honest with me. I knew before she told me that the news wasn't good," White shared. "It was back and I started chemotherapy on November 2."
But even after learning that more cancer treatment was necessary, White's positive attitude led her to advocacy.
"A friend of mine told me about the Mrs. West Virginia All Star USA pageant and the first thing I thought was this was a way for me reach out and provide education on breast self-check exams at a young age," said White. And that she did. She developed her platform on the importance of doing monthly self-check breast exams.
"Cancer has no age limit. Even as young as eight, there have been diagnoses of breast cancer. My mom taught me how to self-check and if we are going to make a difference, we need to make sure all young girls are doing this on a monthly basis," she said.
Earlier this month, White was crowned Mrs. West Virginia All Star USA. Since then, she has worn her crown and sash and traveled the halls of the Edwards Comprehensive Cancer Center sharing her story and giving hope to others battling cancer.
"I have spent time with children with cancer and taught a class on how to look good and feel better with cancer. Anything I can do, I will do it to show people they can beat this. They just need to stay positive and let the excellent nurses and doctors at the Edwards take care of them," she said. "Have confidence in yourself. You can do anything you put your mind to."