In a matter of two weeks, a Spokane woman's life was turned upside down after she learned she was diagnosed with stage four breast cancer at the age of 21.
It's very rare, in fact so rare, Amanda Degraff's doctor says she's only seen a handful of women her age with breast cancer. Degraff wants to prove a point: it doesn't matter what age you are, you need to check yourself.
Degraff says on November 2nd, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer, but that quickly changed to stage four. "I found out that it got into my lungs and my liver, my spine, my joints and bone marrow," said Degraff. "I was perfectly normal. I was working a job, taking care of my kid. My back was hurting a little bit, which I thought was crazy that it just kept hurting over and over again," she said. Degraff did monthly breast self-examinations too and noticed a lump.
This week, she starts chemotherapy. Words she never thought would come out of her mouth. "Some people live weeks, months, up to three years is what the chart showed and so it's a little scary knowing that I am kind of on a timeline," said Degraff.
Her doctor explains breast cancer in younger women is very rare but can happen. "Amanda knows the statistics. It's six percent, so it's not a common entity. Many times, even people get a false sense of confidence of, 'Oh well. So what if I have a palpable mass in my breast? I can't have cancer, I'm too young,' that's just not true," said Dr. Lisa Maestas, Amanda's Radiation Oncologist.
Degraff is trying to stay ahead of it. She shaved her head in a Facebook live video before the cancer got to it first, trying to tell people, there's something everyone can learn from it all. "With the time that I have left, I want people to know how important it is to go and check and if you feel like anything is weird, take it seriously," she said.
Even though it's hard, she says she's able to get treatments and can try and prolong her life.
Women have been told to start getting mammograms between ages 40 and 50. Degraff's doctor says you don't have wait, especially if you feel something in the breast that wasn't there before. Get it checked out immediately.
(story: Andrea Olson, KHQ Local News Producer/Reporter; photo: KHQ.com)