Samantha Harris, the pretty 40-yar old mother of 2 and one time cohost of ABC’s “Dancing with the Stars” recently learned the double mastectomy she underwent to treat her breast cancer was not enough. Her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. In a personal and intimate interview, Harris discussed her journey to get the diagnosis, determine the best course of action for her and where she is today. The interview appeared on Access Hollywood on June 26 with Billy Bush.
On October 10, 2013, Harris, just shy of 40, went for her baseline mammogram. With no reason to suspect anything, she was not surprised when she received the all clear following the test. A scant 11 days later, she discovered a lump in her breast while changing clothes.
Harris said she believes it is “really important for women to be comfortable with your body, to know your body.” She said “Being healthy, eating right, exercising regularly helps to be in tune with your body.” She credits her healthy lifestyle with making her aware of the change in her breast early. It allowed her to notice something that wasn’t there before.
The entertainment news journalist saw her OBGYN who assured her it was nothing and sent her on her way. A month later, the lump was still there so she visited her internist. The doctor said they should “keep an eye on it.”
She tried to monitor it, checking herself every time she changed her clothes. She said, “Everyone wants someone in a white lab coat to say ‘You’re fine. You’re healthy.’” She just knew that wasn’t the case. After another 4 months of her gut nagging at her and her mother “chirping in her ear,” Harris decided to see a specialist.
She underwent an MRI, a needle biopsy and an ultrasound. All the tests indicated she did not have cancer but couldn’t identify what the mass was. She opted for a lumpectomy to remove it. IN recovery she was told it still did not appear to be cancer. A week later, telling her husband, Michael, there was no need to go with for the follow up visit, she saw her doctor to get the pathology report. That is when she learned the devastating news that she had breast cancer.
The news rocked her world. She felt the weight of an elephant on her chest and the ulcerated feeling in the stomach. She had horrible anxiety like an adrenaline that coursed through her veins making her feel horrible. Then she decided she didn’t want to feel like this anymore and did what she could to change her perspective by taking control.
A week and a half later, Harris had seen 3 surgical oncologists, 2 medical oncologists, 1 radiology oncologist and 2 plastic surgeons in order to gather as much information about breast cancer and her options as she could. Because the cancer was caught early, she had options which include another lumpectomy but with radiation or a unilateral or bilateral mastectomy. After listing the pros and cons and discussing things with Michael, Harris opted for the double mastectomy, feeling it gave her best odds.
Her choice meant she shouldn’t have to undergo chemotherapy, something she wanted to avoid if possible. When she woke up in the recovery room, her surgeon was waiting with grim news. They had found cancer in her lymph nodes and had removed them.
The cancer had only spread to one of the lymph nodes but most oncologists feel that once cancer has moved to the lymph nodes, chemotherapy is the only reliable treatment. The type of cancer Harris has was, in her words, “behaving well,” however. This had left in a gray area where she may not need chemo. She is now six post-op and chemo is still on the table. She is exploring her options for the time being. Her prognosis is very good.
If there was one thing Harris wants women to know it is that “It’s okay to play with the girls. They’re your friends, until they’re not.” She recommends leading as healthy a life as possible and being in touch with your own body so changes like this can be caught early. She also advocates listening to your own inner voice. If she had accepted the numerous ‘all clear’ signs she’d been given, her situation could be much worse, even tragic. The former “Dancing With the Stars” co-host tweeted her interview to followers and thanked Bush for allowing to share what she calls her story of positivity.