Boushra Young pauses and attempts to fight back the tears. She tucks blond curls behind her ears and takes a deep breath. But it’s no use, when she talks about her stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis, losing her hair, radiation treatments and undergoing a mastectomy, the tears flow freely.
“I felt like why does this have to happen, I didn’t say ‘why me’ because it’s not fair for anyone to have it. Because I think in my head it’s the worst thing for anyone to have.”
Decked out in a light pink, long-sleeved shirt, black pants and running shoes, her petite frame overwhelmed by the chair, Boushra explains that she never thought breast cancer would touch her life. As an avid exerciser with a healthy diet and no breast cancer in her family, the fit middle-aged woman was completely taken aback when Dr. Amy Bremner came back with her biopsy results.
“It was the worst news of my life, because I was thinking of my daughter and she was home from school, I had to go home and break it to her,” says the Syrian native.
Boushra headed home and asked her then 19-year-old daughter to come downstairs. Even before her mother uttered the words Dee Dee Young already had a gut feeling.
“I think the main feeling I had was numbness,” says Dee Dee. “I didn’t know what to feel, when you hear that I didn’t know what was gonna happen”
A Mysterious Lump
Boushra first felt the lump under her arm in October of 2012. But she refused to think it was a big deal, shrugging it off as a pulled muscle from one of her workouts.
When the lump did not go away a friend felt insisted that the mother of two visit her doctor. In June of 2013 she received the diagnosis of Stage 2 breast cancer.
Boushra dabs tears away with a tissue as she relays the story, talking about the double mastectomy she underwent in January and how her son could barely look at her when she laid in the hospital bed, her previous brunette hair completely gone and a bald head in its place.
She explains that she was not prepared to deal with something as devastating as breast cancer. Growing up in Syria her mother was the type of person who couldn’t stand bad news.
When Boushra’s sister was attending medical school she was even forbidden from talking about it in front of their mother. She considered any appointment with the doctor a bad omen, preferring to have all her children at home.
“My mom would not have anything to do with any bad news, so this is what I watched and what I see and that’s why I become a very nervous person.”
Boushra still has not told her family that she had breast cancer. Most of them are in hiding in Syria and she is unaware of their whereabouts. Still, even if she could contact them, she probably would not break the news. She spoke to her brother who lives in Saudi Arabia and refrained from telling him.
“They are gonna take it so hard and I do not want to put more stress on them with all that’s going on in their lives,” she says.
From Athens to Temecula
It’s easy to picture the tiny Boushra as a flight attendant, which she was when she met her future husband. He was in the US Air Force, stationed in Greece when the two met, eventually marrying and having two children.
They recently retired and bought a home in Temecula. The close-knit military family has bonded even more over her diagnosis, although it was extremely difficult for her husband of 30 years.
“My husband took it very badly, I’m usually the active one, working out three to five days a week, eating healthy.”
Suddenly Boushra’s entire life was consumed with breast cancer. She had to receive radiation treatments everyday for nearly six weeks. The chemotherapy made her a nervous wreck.
Dee Dee became her advocate and personal researcher, looking up all the pros and cons of a mastectomy versus a lumpectomy and a single versus double mastectomy.
In the end, Boushra opted for a double mastectomy and underwent the surgery in January
“I pray every day that God erases it off the face of the earth, that doctors research and find a cure for it, that’s my dream,” she says.
Not just a doctor – Stage 2 breast cancer
“After the surgery was a big relief because I wanted it out of her body,” says Dee Dee.
And breast cancer has definitely changed this 20-year-old.
“Along with not paying attention to the little things and how important happiness is, it has taught me two very important things:
- to be thankful for everything.
- it has taught me to be strong and more importantly my mom has given me a whole new definition of the word strength.
I never forgot to tell her how proud I was of her each step of the way, because as hard as it has all been for me, I know it is 100 times harder since she was the one physically going through everything. I have much more of a ‘never give up’ attitude regardless of what I am dealing with because she is my example of never giving up.”
Boushra is aware that she should have contacted the doctor right away when she felt the lump under her arm. But she convinced herself that it was nothing and continued on with her life.
“I first of all advise everybody if you feel something in your body don’t wait too long to take care of it,” says Boushra.
And make sure you find a doctor you like and respect, who will not only give you the best treatment possible but also one who is positive and gives you hope.
Boushra found that in Dr. Bremner.
“I love Dr. Bremner. I have so much respect and so much love for her because Dr. Bremner is not only a doctor, she’s a doctor, she’s a friend, she’s family,” says Boushra. “There is no word to describe her, my daughter loves her to death.”