Georgia newlywed battles breast cancer at 25
GAINESVILLE, Ga. - Farrah Smith has grown used to the early mornings at the Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville.
It's her chemotherapy day, and her older sister Candice and mom Jonell are with her, as the always are.
"Cancer doesn't just affect me; it has affected my entire family," Smith says.
But, this is not where Farrah expected to be as a 25-year old newlywed.
"She's the youngest breast cancer patient that I have right now," Dr. Andrew Johnson, a hematology and oncology physician at the Longstreet Clinic. "We do see patients in their 20's and 30's that can get breast cancer. It's rare."
Jonell Barber, Smith's mother, says her diagnosis caught the whole family off guard.
"I just remember thinking, it should be me; I'm older," Barber says. "It was just unreal to thing that someone who is 25 years old should have breast cancer."
But Farrah Smith actually felt the lump 2 years ago at 23.
"It was like it came up overnight," she remembers.
She'd been pregnant, and subsequently miscarried.
So, she told herself the lump was a clogged milk duct.
"I had 100% positivity that it would never be cancer," she says.
But this summer, Smith learned she did have cancer, HER2-positive breast cancer.
"It is really indescribable to describe how it felt," she says.
As she began treatment, Smith learned she also has Li Fraumeni syndrome, a rare gene mutation that raises her risk of developing several other cancers down the road.
It's something she was born with, usually passed down through families.
"We're in the process of testing her family members, and we'll go from there," Dr. Johnson says.
Tests show Farrah's chemo is working, shrinking the mass in her breast.
But, it's hard on her physically.
After the last round of medication, she couldn't eat for 6 days.
Watching her long brown hair fall out was hard, too.
"I cried, I definitely cried," she says.
Still, having cancer at 25 has taught her something.
"I still am who I am, and my hair has not changed me," Smith says.
"The cancer is a part of me, and I am not a part of it. I refuse it to let it bring me down or change me."
Her mother says she's been touched by Farrah's strength.
"I've watched her," Barber says. "She's been so brave and so positive. She's my hero."
Thinking back, Farrah Smith feels lucky.
Despite the two-year delay in getting diagnosed, the cancer has not spread beyond her nearby lymph nodes.
Dr. Johnson says her prognosis is "excellent."
Smith is hoping her story will inspire people to pay attention to their health, to learn from her story.
"You know yourself better than anyone else," Smith says. "Do not hesitate to get checked out, for any reason."