She was referred to a local oncologist but was having difficulty scheduling an appointment.
“A friend asked me why I didn’t just go to MD Anderson,” says Najaah. “It clicked. MD Anderson is right here, and it’s the best cancer hospital. I filled out a form online, and they called me right away.”
Najaah received her care at MD Anderson West Houston, which was close to her home in Cypress, Texas. She felt an immediate connection to her care team and everyone she met – from the greeters to the staff checking in patients.
Najaah and breast medical oncologist Ajit Bisen, M.D., shared similar interests, like kickboxing, and she liked his high energy.
“I used to train Dr. Joyner’s nurse, Essence, at my gym years ago,” says Najaah. “Since I already knew Essence, I felt very comfortable in her care.”
Najaah appreciated what she calls occupational therapist Camiella Esaklul’s “super high-energy.”
“Every visit to the West Houston campus was a pleasant one,” says Najaah. “The fact that I felt comfortable with everyone let me know I was in the right place.”
Treatment for triple-negative breast cancer
Najaah enrolled in the ARTEMIS clinical trial in which doctors monitored her response to chemotherapy treatment to see if it would decrease the size of her tumor. If not, she would receive targeted therapy based on her tumor profile. Najaah began four rounds of the chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin cyclophosphamide. When this combination didn’t shrink the tumor enough, Dr. Bisen added paclitaxel and panitumumab to her chemotherapy regimen. In total, she completed 20 rounds of treatment.
In October 2022, Akay performed a prophylactic skin-sparing mastectomy on the other breast while plastic surgeon Margaret Roubaud, M.D., completed a DIEP flap reconstruction of both breasts. Roubaud used tissue from Najaah’s stomach to recreate her breasts.
“The symmetry, shape and form of my breast is wonderful,” says Najaah. “I’m very pleased.”
Managing side effects from breast cancer treatment
“I know so many Black women who are afraid to get a mammogram. Maybe they’ve had pain or felt a lump in their breast, but they’re afraid to make an appointment,” she says. “You never want to hear from a doctor, ‘We could have helped you, but now we can’t because x, y or z has happened.’ Have the courage to get checked out, follow up on those appointments and speak up for yourself.”
Today, Najaah is cancer-free, and says she feels amazing. She comes to MD Anderson for checkups every six months.
“I feel light, refreshed and stress-free,” she says. “But I pay attention to my body, so if I feel or see anything abnormal, I’m the first to jump on it.”