In July 2021, EquipmentShare team member Kayla McAndrews was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 38. While performing regular self breast checks in the shower, she felt a lump, but pushed it out of her mind. She felt fine otherwise and she was a new mom to son Cal. She was used to putting herself on the back burner.
“As women, sometimes we put ourselves last and don’t take care of ourselves because we have the new baby or the spouse, or the house or the job… and it goes on,” Kayla said. “I kept putting off having it checked until my husband pushed me and said go get it checked for peace of mind.”
At the age of 38, Kayla had never received a mammogram. Some health insurance providers and physicians don’t encourage regular mammograms until the age of 40. Having very little family history of cancer or any other health issues, there was no need for a mammogram before 40.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast cancer is more likely to be diagnosed in patients over 50, but it can strike much younger. Approximately 9% of all new cases of breast cancer in the United States are found in women younger than 45.
Kayla met with her doctor who thought the lump might be calcium build-up, but went ahead and scheduled a mammogram, which showed some concerning spots. The next step was a biopsy.
“Waiting was the hardest part. First you wait for the mammogram, then wait for the biopsy,” Kayla said. “You have all this time to wait and you jump to the worst assumptions and possible outcomes.”
Kayla’s biopsy was performed at the height of Covid-19 precautions, meaning her husband couldn't be with her. She’d planned to be surrounded by family when she received the results the next day.
“I’m back there in the procedure room and my husband is in the waiting room and the doctor starts the biopsy,” Kayla said. “I’m all by myself with the doctor and nurse, and as the doctor was doing the procedure she just told me it was cancer — she knew it. I almost passed out from the news and my husband was still in the waiting room. I was supposed to be at home with my mom and sisters when I got the news and this was just a huge shock. Then we got the call and it was confirmed the next day it was cancer.”
During the summer of 2021, Kayla actually felt very healthy right before her diagnosis. She had no reason to believe she was very sick while keeping up with her busy summer schedule and toddler son.
“That’s the scary part about cancer, it can happen and you don’t even know it is happening or feel any different. That’s why self-checks and going in for routine screening is so important - because I felt perfectly healthy and fine and it had already spread to my lymph nodes.”
Kayla began the treatment process with Missouri Cancer Associates near her home in Columbia, Missouri, and had surgery to remove the tumor. At that point, the treatment team determined chemotherapy was necessary, as well as radiation. Kayla had a port put in her chest during a second surgery, and then things moved very quickly.
“I felt better once the ball got rolling because we weren’t just waiting any more,” Kayla said.
“Then I began what would be 13 rounds of chemo and started losing my hair after the third round. I felt like my identity was partially gone — I’d always had long hair and it was falling out in clumps. It was really hard. So, my husband shaved my head for me because having it fall out in big clumps was worse than just being bald.”
Kayla finished chemo and went right into six weeks of radiation, Monday through Friday. Chemo treatments were three hours every week and radiation was every day. It was a grueling process for Kayla’s entire family. Kayla continued to work as a recruiter for EquipmentShare during her treatments.
Supporting those battling breast cancer is an important cause for the EquipmentShare team. One of the focus areas for The EquipmentShare Foundation, a non-profit organization, is supporting breast cancer awareness and research for a cure. The EquipmentShare foundation has a mission to support breast cancer research and awareness. Team EquipmentShare “goes pink” each October to help raise money and awareness for a cure.
In July 2022, Kayla received a clean scan and was declared cancer-free. She will continue to take preventative measures like mammograms and MRIs every six months and daily medication. The most critical time for cancer to return is in the first two years after treatment.
Being cancer-free has come with some lasting effects, and Kayla is still adjusting to the changes.
“My hair is growing back now and we’ve been through every stage,” Kayla said. “I’ve looked like a chia pet, had a combover and now it just sticks straight out. It’s going to take a while for me to feel comfortable going without a wig, but I’m having fun with the wigs right now.”
“I will continue to do self checks and I encourage women of all ages to do so, as well. I’m incredibly thankful for the resources that allow me to still be here with my husband and son.”
We applaud Kayla’s strength and perseverance in winning her battle with breast cancer while also remembering and honoring those who lost the fight.
Other stories from the EquipmentShare team about the fight against breast cancer.