What was supposed to be "her year" turned into a nightmare

Amy Kuhnel and Matt Linaberry . "I could not ask for a better partner," said Kuhnel, who had surgery weeks before her October wedding.
Amy Kuhnel and Matt Linaberry . "I could not ask for a better partner," said Kuhnel, who had surgery weeks before her October wedding.
Posted: October 15, 2012

Through Oct. 17, The Inquirer will mark Breast Cancer Awareness Month by publishing a profile a day of transformative moments reported by patients. The series will culminate in a special Inquirer section Thursday, and can be viewed at www.philly.com/breastcancer.

"2012 was supposed to be my year!" says Amy Kuhnel of Kettering, Ohio. "I recently got engaged to the man of my dreams. We bought our first house together, and I got my dream job. I also turned 40, so I went in February to get my first mammogram.

"They found dense tissue in my right breast, so they ordered an ultrasound. I wasn't scared of the mammogram or the ultrasound. But when the doctor came back and said that there were three spots that came up on the ultrasound, then I started to get worried."

On March 28, she had three biopsies: two on her right breast, one under her arm. All three came back positive. "On March 30, at 11:20," she says, "my world got turned upside down forever - 'Amy, you have cancer.'

"My fiance, Matt, and I have been together for five years," she said. "Like any couple, we have had our good times and bad times. When I had to call him at work and tell him I had breast cancer, I could hear the tears from him on the other end of the line and wishing he could be there to hold me."

Amy also has an 11-year-old son, who handled the news better than anyone. "He just told me, 'Everything will be OK, Mom.' "

"I started chemo on April 20," she said, "five months until my wedding. I had great chemo buddies! We passed the time by planning the wedding. I tried to work through chemo, but had to take an early medical leave from work."

After the second round of chemo, her hair fell out. She had been growing it long for her wedding. She wept.

"My head was full of stubble, very itchy, and the stubble was falling out," Amy recalled. "Matt thought the best thing to do was to shave the stubble off with a razor so I would feel better and then the wig would not be so bad to wear."

So on a Sunday in May, he shaved her head.

"He felt that was just another step in the journey and for me, I knew he would do anything for me. Matt has been very supportive throughout: going to doctor appointments, researching everything on the Internet, holding my hand during chemo, and so on. I could not ask for a better partner for this journey and in life. Our love has grown deeper because of this."

Amy finished her chemo in August. And then decided to have a double mastectomy - six weeks before her wedding.

"I felt since I was 40, my breasts had served their purpose in my life and I didn't need them anymore and I did not want reconstruction," she said. "My doctor agreed with my decision.

"When talking about surgery and all the options, Matt was always part of the discussion," Amy said. "He had told me that he loves me for who I am, not because I had big breasts. Once again, he was the one researching all options of surgery, but he said that he would support the decision I would make since it was my body. That meant a lot, knowing the decision I had to make; I had his full support and blessing."

Amy had the surgery Sept. 5.

"Since then," she said, "I have been home resting and healing. Some days are better than others, but the end result is that I am learning to adjust to my new life without my breasts. The best news came on Sept. 20; five months after my breast cancer journey started and one month until the wedding. The doctor said that I was cancer free!

"Now I can walk down the aisle on my wedding day knowing I may not have my breasts, but I am cancer free and can start married life happy and be around for a long time for my son!"

- Michael Vitez


Contact Michael Vitez at mvitez@phillynews.com or 215-854-5639.

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