WASHINGTON -- A 31-year-old woman who was nearing the end of treatment for breast cancer found a lump on her breast a month after she thought she was cured. The now two-time cancer survivor is on a mission to help other young survivors.
At the age of 29, Siata Swaray had big plans. She loved to travel, hang out with friends and spend time with family. For Swaray 2016 was a really good year until she discovered a hard, painless lump above her right breast.
Swaray, who lives in Howard County with her family, knew it was unusual but didn't jump to conclusions.
She called her mother when she felt the lump, then sought a doctor to check it out. At the time, the now 31-year-old did not have health insurance. She was waiting for it to take affect the following month.
To get immediate medical attention, she applied for the Maryland Breast and Cervical Cancer Program for help. The program requires applicants to be Maryland residents and uninsured or underinsured.
After an ultrasound, then biopsy she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
"You can never be prepared for news like that," Swaray said. "It was the last thing I thought would happen to me."
It was December 2016 when she received the unexpected news.
"I was scared, I was really scared," she recalled, while sitting on a couch in her sun-filled living room. "It was a sad period in my life, but at the same time I was very hopeful."
Swaray did not waste time getting treatment after the diagnosis. First, she had a mastectomy, then several rounds of chemotherapy. It was a long five months.
"Chemotherapy made me very tired," she said. " I was in bed most of the time, but still tried to exercise which I was told would help with the fatigue."
When Swaray turned 30, she was still undergoing treatment. However, it didn't stop her from using her fight to make a difference.
On March 25, 2017, she held her first annual breast cancer walk. It was called, "Siata's Think Pink." She raised $8,000 to donate to the Johns Hopkins Breast Center.
"It felt so good to have all of my family and friends there, being supportive and raising money for a great cause," said Swaray, who had a big smile on her face while thinking of the outcome.
Swaray's treatments wrapped up that June, but no more than a month later she found a second lump on the same side as her first one. This time she knew what it was.
"I was just heartbroken," she said. " It was just fight, fight, fight, I have to get through this; that's what my parents would say."
"We're going to beat this, we're going to stomp this," she said.
Swaray's treatment intensified the second time around. She had chemotherapy and radiation for the recurrence. This year, she went into remission and is now focused on starting a breast cancer foundation for young adults. She also wants to start a mentoring and after school program for students in Sierra Leone where her aunt passed away from breast cancer.
"My ultimate goal is really to help people, to help women who are going through a tough time particularly with breast cancer, " she said.
She just hopes to be a light to others.
Early this year, Swaray raised $5,000 to donate to the Well Woman Clinic in Sierra Leone.
She plans to host her third annual walk next spring.