One in 8 women will battle invasive breast cancer. Fewer than 5% of women diagnosed are younger than 40. Amy Kocurek never dreamed she’d be one of them.
Kocurek of Plymouth is a medical records clerk who is currently the Breast Cancer Ambassador for the Detroit Lions.
The 39-year-old is married to Kris Kocurek.
“My husband is the defensive line coach for the Detroit Lions -- which right now our defense is amazing,” said Amy beaming with pride.
BAD NEWS FOR THE BRIDE-TO-BE
The couple was one month shy of their March 2015 wedding day -- spending a week’s vacation at the Pro Bowl together -- when Amy started feeling numbness down her right torso and leg.
Then she felt the lump in her right breast.
“No one in my family had ever had cancer. I was only 36! I knew I didn’t have [to have] a mammogram until 40,” she recalled emphatically.
She couldn’t believe the diagnosis: stage 3 HER2-positive breast cancer.
“I caught my cancer very late. Basically, they told me if I would have come back in a month from then, there was a possibility that I could have had stage 4,” she said soberly.
Since it was so aggressive, Amy and Kris postponed their wedding and decided not to do the one-to-two-month procedure to save her eggs.
It was a tough decision, but her life was at stake.
So, she went right into six rounds of chemo, six weeks of radiation, a double mastectomy, reconstructive surgeries, then six more months of chemo.
Amy was at her lowest low.
“[Kris] was that one who was like, ‘You need to get up, and you need to live, and you need to beat today, and when today is done, then we’ll worry about tomorrow.’ He was like…’You’re not going to get through this sulking in your sorrows, Ame. I need you!’” she said.
THE FIGHT OF HER LIFE
With Kris – her personal coach by her side – and her family support system, Amy fought on.
She lost more than 30 pounds and lost her hair, but she wouldn’t give up.
She donned a wig for what she called the couple’s “New Beginnings” photo shoot.
For her this was different from an engagement photo shoot.
It was like their life together had started over after they had overcome so much, and they wanted to celebrate that.
Amy married finally “her coach” in June of 2016 after tackling the toughest fight of her life.
EARLY DETECTION IS KEY
She works now to help raise awareness of breast cancer.
“I want to get across to women that early detection is the key. I was so not aware of my body,” she explained.
She recommends getting mammograms as early as your doctor will allow and performing breast self-exams at least once a month.
Amy participates in 5 breast cancer awareness and support groups to help spread the word and offer encouragement to others fighting the disease.
And what about plans for having a baby?
“They basically told me the chances that with my age of me having children after [breast cancer treatment] were going to be very slim, that I wouldn't probably get my period back, and that I'd probably be in a menopausal state. But here I am back and working!” she said with a huge smile.
Amy went on to say if she got pregnant, it would kind of be a miracle baby. But there is a chance.
There is a sign on the wall of their home which reads: “Prayers go up – Blessings come down”
Amy is still cancer free.
She will celebrate her 3 year “Cancer-versary” this February – which is a big milestone in the recovery process.
She hopes her story will encourage women everywhere to get their mammograms and to perform breast self-exams monthly.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. And as the Detroit Lions’ Breast Cancer Ambassador, Amy Kocurek was a big part of this October’s “Game On Cancer” Pink Ribbon Ceremony.
She will also be the keynote speaker at the Detroit Lions Survivors Luncheon – which celebrates 100 women who have survived breast cancer for 20 years or more.