A California woman will likely remain on chemotherapy for the rest of her life and will never be able to have a child after she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer — that had already spread to other parts of her body — after being refused screening when she initially found a lump.
Phelicia La’Bounty, who is now 35, discovered a lump in her breast while at the movies with her boyfriend in 2018. She knew something was wrong, but an initial ultrasound found a cyst and nothing more. La’Bounty suspected it was much worse and requested a mammogram, but was denied twice because she was only 29 years old — well below the average age of breast cancer diagnosis.
The lump continued to grow though, eventually to the point where it was affecting how she fit in her clothes. When she returned to the doctor once again months later, now at age 30, she was finally given a mammogram — and then diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. It had also spread into her lungs, lymph nodes and sternum by that point.
La’Bounty’s cancer has gone into remission in the years since, but she will need to continue a lifetime of chemotherapy and hormone blockers to keep it from returning. She also needed to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed, making her unable to carry her own child — which she tells DailyMail.com that she had previously dreamed of.
Phelicia La’Bounty (pictured), initially found a lump in her breast when she was at the movies in 2018. Her requests to receive a mammogram were rejected, allowing the lump to grow
La’Bounty knew something was wrong when her lump grew to the point that some clothing was too tight on her
La’Bounty underwent six round of chemotherapy, including one of a brutal drug called the ‘red devil’
‘I absolutely feared cancer, we all know lumps in breasts aren’t good and you always think of the worst scenario,’ La’Bounty, who previously worked as a model at car shows, told DailyMail.com about when she first discovered the growth.
She went to a free health clinic to receive a scan. An ultrasound discovered that she had a benign cyst.
At the time, she was only 29 years old — well below the average onset age of breast cancer at 62.
La’Bounty had no family history of breast cancer either, and doctors assured her that she was likely ok.
‘They convinced me that the ultrasound showed nothing that it was completely benign,’ she explained.
She still did feel that something was wrong, though. La’Bounty would put in two requests for a mammogram — a x-ray that can detect breast cancer early on — but was rejected both times because of her low risk profile.
‘I did feel that it was unfair that just because of my age and no family history that I wasn’t allowed to have more testing,’ she explained.
‘I believed the doctors that I was OK.’
The lump would continue to grow over the next eight months. It got to the point where it affected her ability to fit in some clothing.
It had grown to eight centimeters over that period. She would return to the clinic once again, and this time did receive a mammogram.
She said that by the way physicians were reacting she could tell something serious was wrong.
After six months, La’Bounty was tumor free. Her cancer had gone into remission within a year of her diagnosis
She also had to have her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed as part of her treatment, ruining her ability to one day carry a child. La’Bounty says she plans to use a surrogate
Biopsies, a PET scan — an imaging device that can show metabolic activity in a person’s tissue — and MRI confirmed that she had stage 4 breast cancer.
It had also spread to her lungs, lymph nodes and sternum as well — potentially because of how long it had gone untreated.
‘[It was] absolutely heart sinking, like my soul had lost all its light,’ she said of her reaction to the diagnosis.
‘It’s nearly indescribable, numbing, I sobbed heavily and my boyfriend had to help me walk out of the appointment.’
La’Bounty also felt anger about the situation — knowing this cancer would have been caught had she been listened to months earlier when she first discovered the growth — but had little time to process the anger as she immediately had to begin thinking about treatment.
‘I was furious but had to put my energy towards the appointments to figure out how bad it was, and to figure out the next step, the appointments came so fast and so many I didn’t really have time to think or process,’ she said.
She said that she underwent a round of chemo using a drug called the ‘red devil’, or doxorubicin.
The drug earned that nickname because of its bright red color, which also turns a person’s urine and other fluids red in the days following its use.
It is a harsh drug, even by the standards of chemotherapy, and causes full hair loss, nausea, vomiting and can even lead to heart failure.
She went another six rounds of chemotherapy using other drugs. Because of the spread, she had to have her fallopian tubes and ovaries removed — meaning she could no longer carry a child on her own.
La’Bounty now uses her Tik Tok page to raise awareness about her situation, and advise other women on what to do if they find a lump and are told they can not be screened
The surgeries and chemo even forced her body into an early menopause.
Within six months, she was found to be tumor free. Her cancer went into remission within a year of her treatment’s start.
She told DailyMail.com that she had a PET scan last week that was clear of any cancerous growth.
La’Bounty will still require treatment for the rest of her life to make sure it never returns.
She takes oral chemotherapy drugs for three weeks at a time, before taking two weeks off in-between treatment periods.
Not being able to carry a child has also destroyed a dream of hers, she says:
‘I had always dreamed of carrying my own children but that is not an option for me anymore.’
She has ten eggs frozen though, and plans on using a surrogate to have a child in the future.
Breast cancer will be responsible for more than 43,000 deaths in 2022, according to projections by the American Cancer Society.
It is the second most deadly cancer among women in America, only trailing lung cancer. Around three percent of U.S. women will die of breast cancer.
La’Bounty has documented her experience on her Tik Tok page, where she hopes to raise awareness and help other women who end up in similar situations to hers get the help they need.