At 23 years old, Markie thought she was facing some difficult times. She was adjusting to a new town, a new home and life as a new mom—her daughter, Braylee, was just 3 years old. She had a lot on her plate, and the word “cancer” was not on her radar.
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On Nov. 29, 2015, just two days after her 23rd birthday, Markie was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The discovery came after a benign cyst in Markie’s right breast became inflamed, causing pain and discomfort. When she visited Quest Imaging at Adventist Health Bakersfield for an ultrasound, a tumor was detected next to the cyst. A biopsy of the tumor came back as positive for cancer.
“At first, I couldn’t believe it—cancer?” Markie says. “Then I was just really, really scared—I wanted it out of me.” Markie underwent some additional tests that determined, fortunately, the breast cancer had been caught early: Stage 1.
But instead of basking in post-birthday bliss, Markie now needed to focus on a treatment plan. She would undergo a mastectomy of her right breast on in February and begin chemotherapy in March of 2016.
During a total of six chemotherapy sessions over three weeks, Markie became extremely ill. She lost her beautiful brown hair, as well as 10 percent of her body weight. “Chemo was very hard for me,” she says. “I had to be hospitalized twice.”
She was not alone in her fight. Just like a champion boxer, has “corner men,” Markie had the support of her boyfriend, Justin, and her daughter, Braylee. They always made sure Markie knew she was loved and tried to reassure her that everything would be okay. “My boyfriend has been at my side through all of this,” Markie says. “And Braylee has done so well. She would tell me, ‘Don’t be sad, Mom – your brown hair will grow back.’”
For now, Markie keeps herself stylish with a collection of beautiful wigs. As her strength grows, she’s starting to feel better every day. She takes two different medications and receives monthly injections to suppress ovary function and prevent estrogen production over the next five years. This temporary, menopausal-like state ensures the cancer is knocked out and down for the count. Although it also means she can’t have any more children (for now), Markie remains positive. She says that staying upbeat is a powerful weapon against cancer.
“I blocked out any negative energy because you have to fight, but in a positive way,” Markie says. “Make sure you’re surrounded by positive people.”
And that’s why The AIS Cancer Center was the perfect match for this fighter—the physicians and staff were not only there to help her get better, but made her feel that she was not alone. Dr. Vikas Ghai, oncologist, was one of those people. “Dr. Ghai was so attentive – he answered all my questions and he really cares,” Markie says. “The doctors, the nurses—everyone there is so great. They are your team, but they become family.”
Markie uses her experience to talk about breast health and cancer awareness with other young women. She’s also gained a more meaningful appreciation for life. “It was devastating, but I have a whole new perspective,” she says. “I’ve changed—and I’m happy with the person I’ve become.”