Amy Dowden's Breast Cancer Journey
- “Strictly Come Dancing” star Amy Dowden, who has been battling stage 3 breast cancer since her diagnosis this past May, concluded her final chemotherapy treatment this month.
- The Welsh professional ballroom and Latin American dancer announced the news on her Instagram page with an emotional video featuring Dowden greeting her medical team and loved ones before ringing the bell.
- Although Dowden has completed her chemo therapy treatments, her next step is to get an MRI to determine whether more surgery is needed in her fight against cancer.
- Her breast cancer journey began this past April when she discovered the “first lump” just before she was set to go on a honeymoon with her husband. An MRI ultimately revealed a second tumor, prompting her to undergo a mastectomy and more tumors to be found, leading to her stage 3 diagnosis, which means the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
- Reaching milestones during or after a cancer battle is huge. These events – like finishing chemotherapy treatment, getting married, or a birthday, may mean even more than they did previously, so it’s important to take them all in and celebrate all that you’ve overcome.
The Welsh professional ballroom and Latin American dancer, who has been battling breast cancer since diagnosis this past May, took to her social media page to announce the news with an emotional video.
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She continued, “It’s been tough. But hopefully has now given me chance of more life which I’m eternally grateful for and I will never take for granted again. I’ll never be the same Amy again but, what I do know is I’m so much stronger than I ever knew and I have made the most amazing friends along the way.”
The video clip of Dowden, showing the realty star wearing a black skirt and white shirt with the words “Go Grab Life” printed on it, was accompanied by Whitney Houston’s powerful song, “I Didn’t Know My Own Strength.”
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Dowden also acknowledged how she’s been dealing with hair loss, a normal side effect of cancer, adding, “I hate looking in the mirror at the moment but I know this is a small price to pay and ‘this too shall pass.'”
She continued, “I’m so grateful to the wonderful Sheldon oncology unit and my family and friends who have been there endlessly for Ben and I. We did it! All though my journey isn’t over yet, this day of ringing the chemo bell felt like an endless distance away and at points I thought I’d never make it to. I’m so proud of myself.”
Dowden also noted that her next step is an MRI to determine whether more surgery would be needed.
“Thank you all for your love and support along the way. My dancing shoes are warming up and I can’t wait to get back in the training room!” she concluded. “Now please remember to check yourselves, if you aren’t who is?!”
Expert Advice On Breast Cancer Treatment
In a followup post, Dowden praised the hospital staff and her loved ones, writing, “Still can’t believe I had my last chemo on Thursday. The relief is like no other. But I couldn’t have got through it without these guys. Honestly the Sheldon unit truly are real heroes. Selfless, hardworking, caring team who puts all their patients first and for me always kept me at ease when I would have my melt downs, doubts and worries oh and of course listen to all my stories (mainly dancing). Will forever be grateful to you all .
“But also my family and friends. You know who you are. The chemo club, to helping Ben and myself out with anything and everything. My parents for coming to stay and help every session. I loved my surprise of you all being there with t-shirts, balloons, flowers and cake when I rang that chemo bell! THANK YOU! My toughest journey yet but I did it. Honestly so many to thank but it’s so appreciated. All your love and support throughout this stage has been utterly amazing and I’ll never be able to thank you enough.”
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Dowden is incredible grateful for concluding chemotherapy, however, shortly after she revealed on her Instagram page that she is now dealing with a broken foot.
“Not the week I was hoping for since finishing chemo. Port out but unfortunately gained a boot for a fractured foot,” she captioned the post, showing off a plastic boot placed over her foot.
“Absolutely gutted and heartbroken as this means the plans for me to dance in the Strictly Ballroom this year are no longer possible. This is what has kept me going the past few months. 2023 is certainly not my year, roll on 2024 I say!”
We’re happy to see Dowden is moving forward with optimism, especially after all that she’s been through this year, something many cancer survivors across the globe can look up to.
Amy Dowden’s Cancer Journey
Amy Dowden’s breast cancer journey began this past April when she discovered the “first lump” just before she was set to go on a honeymoon with her husband.
“I was originally going to have a lumpectomy, radiotherapy, and hormone treatment,” Dowden said during a Coppafeel Instagram chat.
“Then, after my MRI, they found another tumor so then it changed into a mastectomy, and then, after my mastectomy, unfortunately, they found even more tumors,” Dowden added leading to a stage 3 breast cancer diagnosis. During stage 3, the cancer has spread to nearby lymph nodes.
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Dowden was told she needed to undergo chemotherapy to begin cancer treatment which made her “scared,” but she bravely moved forward with treatment. Her oncologist reassured her, “With chemo [she’s] got a really good chance of a cure,” BBC reported.
Since she had to focus on her health, Dowden didn’t participate in this season’s “Strictly Dancing” series. Despite not being able to dance in person, she remained in contact with her team.
We’re delighted to see how much the beloved dancer has improved, especially since her sepsis infection. However, she had also dealt with an emotional stage of her cancer journey, which is hair loss.
Coping With Hair Loss from Cancer Treatment
Hair loss can be an emotional stage of anyone’s cancer journey. SurvivorNet has tips and resources for anyone facing this side effect and struggling to manage it.
“For cancer patients losing one’s hair can be unbelievably stressful. To start with, the dread of losing one’s hair can lead to, some sleepless nights and feelings of anxiety,” Dr. Samantha Boardman, a New York-based psychiatrist and author, told SurvivorNet.
WATCH: Hair Loss During Chemo
Chemotherapy can cause hair loss. It usually begins about three to four weeks after beginning chemotherapy and continues throughout treatment. It happens because this treatment targets quickly dividing cells throughout the body. That includes cancer cells, but also hair cells.
Radiation is another treatment that can lead to hair loss if the hair is in the path of the tumor being treated. Radiation for a brain tumor, for example, may cause hair loss on the head.
“If you do lose hair, it will regrow several weeks or months after treatment,” radiation oncologist at GensisCare Dr. James Taylor told SurvivorNet. “Fortunately, for most patients, hair loss is not a concern when having radiation therapy.”
Most patients can expect regrowth around four to six weeks after they complete treatment. However, it is possible when your hair grows back you may notice some changes in its color and texture.
Dr. Boardman suggests connecting with others who are experiencing cancer treatment like yours and asking them for first-hand advice.
“Talk to people who have been through it, get their advice, voice your concerns to your caregiver, and see what they can do,” Dr. Boardman added.
If losing your hair is a concern for you ahead of cancer treatment, know you have options like wigs, hats, wraps, and more. Dowden wore a cold cap during the infusions she had to help protect her hair follicles. With scalp-cooling devices, they were approved by the FDA in recent years first in breast cancer and then in several other cancers.
Dr. Julia Nangia, a medical oncologist at Baylor College of Medicine and a lead author on one of the major studies of the device, says 50% of women were able to keep their hair after four rounds of chemotherapy, and added:
“Without the devices, 100% of patients lost their hair.”
There have been some questions of safety when it comes to scalp-cooling, but Dr. Nangia says that when given to people who have solid tumors (like breast, ovarian, colon, and lung cancer) the devices are safe.
Reaching Milestones as a Cancer Survivor
Reaching milestones during or after a cancer battle is huge. These events – like finishing chemotherapy treatment, getting married, or a birthday, may mean even more than they did previously, so it’s important to take them all in and celebrate all that you’ve overcome.
Chrissy Degennaro, a cancer warrior determined to keep enjoying these precious milestones, is a great example of this. She has been battling a rare blood cancer called multiple myeloma for 14 years, and was first diagnosed when she was just 36 years old with a 2-year-old son.
When she was diagnosed, she almost expected to not be able to see him enter kindergarten. But thanks to 27 rounds of chemotherapy, two stem cell transplants, a CAR-T cell trial and two CAR-T cell transplants over following 14 years, she’s able to keep making memories with her family.
“You know, I do live one day at a time,” Chrissy previously told SurvivorNet. “Now, maybe I can go a week, a month, but things are looking pretty good. I’m able to be here for more milestones for my son, for more holidays, more birthdays. I do feel like I have had another chance at life.”
Finding the Support You Need
During or after a cancer battle, it’s important to know that you are not alone. Dowden has her husband and parents by her side throughout his cancer journey, but you don’t have a significant other or your parents around to get the support you need during your fight with a disease.
There’s always people out there for you to be vulnerable with, if you’d like, and connecting with others as you battle the disease can make a world of difference. Another cancer warrior named Kate Hervey knows this all too well. A young college girl, she was shocked to be diagnosed with synovial sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that tends to form near large joints in young adults, after seeing her doctor for tenderness and lumps in one of her legs.
Hervey, a nursing student at Michigan State, had to handle her cancer battle during the COVID-19 pandemic and scale back on her social activities as a high-risk patient. That’s when she turned to TikTok as a creative outlet and inspired thousands.
“One thing that was nice about TikTok that I loved and why I started posting more and more videos is how many people I was able to meet through TikTok and social media that are going through the same things,” she says. “I still text with this one girl who is 22. If I’m having a hard time, I will text her because she will understand. As much as my family and friends are supportive, it’s hard to vent to someone who doesn’t know what it’s really like.”
Hervey is now cancer-free and says she couldn’t have done it without the love and support of her TikTok followers.
“I feel like I’ve made an impact on other people and they have made an impact on me through TikTok, which is crazy to say. I can help people go through what I’ve been going through as well.” She has graciously agreed to allow SurvivorNet to use her content in order to help our community.
So while sharing your story to a vast Tik Tok audience might not be your thing, it’s important to consider opening up to others during your cancer battle. Even if it’s with a smaller group, you never know how much the support can help you, or help those you share with, unless you try.
Contributing: SurvivorNet Staff