Takae Brewer, MD
I am a doctor and a cancer survivor.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 36 immediately after I completed my first year of medical school. It was already locally advanced, in stage of IIIA. I needed an intensive cancer treatment including pre-operative chemotherapy, removal of both breasts, more chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and reconstructive surgery. I made a decision to take one year of medical leave of absence from medical school to focus on my treatment.
With a small child of three years old, living with and fighting against locally advanced cancer was an emotional struggle. I wanted to live, most of all, for my daughter. She was too young at that time. Too young to understand what I was going through. I remember I wished for five more years to live. By that time, she could understand what death means. Then I thought if I could live 10 more years, she should be able to understand what cancer means and how cancer may affect people’s lives.
Back then, when I was undergoing treatment, living for even 5 years seemed to be a high hope. After all, my cancer was left untreated for many years because the false diagnosis of “fibrocystic change of the breast” was passed along among multiple health care providers. Nobody suspected breast cancer in a young, apparently healthy Japanese woman. By the time it was accurately diagnosed as cancer, my tumor had already grown very large and had metastasized to the local lymph nodes.
While going through the intensive cancer treatment, I had an opportunity to rethink what I would like to do for the rest of my life. After completion of one year of treatment, I returned to medical school with determination to go into oncology to dedicate my life to helping other cancer patients.
Not a single day passes without me thinking about my own cancer diagnosis. Through living with cancer, I came to realize the true meaning of hope and appreciation of life. I have received priceless gifts along the way, including tremendous support from my family, friends, doctors, nurses, and other cancer survivors.
It has been seven years since my diagnosis, and I am doing well. This summer, I will complete my third year of residency training in internal medicine at the University of Florida. After I finish, I will start a new chapter of my life as a hematology-oncology fellow at the University of Kansas Cancer Center.
Now is the time to give it back.
My mission is to improve quality of life and survival outcome of those affected by cancer through research as well as excellent clinical practice.
Together, we can make a difference. I continue to be in this battle against cancer with those who are also in this fight. And yes, I am hopeful for a better future to come.