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Buddy Check 10: Navigating a breast cancer journey through a pandemic

The pandemic has extended and altered Amber Hardy's breast cancer journey, but she's maintaining strength through the global health crisis.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Imagine navigating through a breast cancer diagnosis with the added stress of the Coronavirus pandemic. That's the reality for Knoxville mother, Amber Hardy.

For 33- year-old Hardy, what sparked as a plan to get an unusual cyst drained near the end of 2019, turned into a stage 2A breast cancer diagnosis.

Hardy had no family history of breast cancer and hadn't started getting regular mammograms yet because of how young she still is. She originally went to the doctor over an unusual freckle on her breast, just to find out the lump underneath was cancerous.

"It's very upsetting," Hardy admitted. "It's never something I never expected to happen to myself."

She thought there was a clear path to recovery: chemo, treatments and surgery. What she didn't anticipate was the global Coronavirus pandemic.

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Her double mastectomy had to happen March 20, right in the middle of the global health crisis. The new restrictions made things more difficult.

"Three hours after my surgery I was discharged, so there was no risk of me catching anything and that was very, very hard," Hardy nodded.

She found out after her surgery that she is cancer free, but her recovery journey isn't over.

"It was a strange situation with the pandemic going on, but it was the best news I could have gotten," Hardy smiled.

Most of her appointments had to be pushed back and she has to wait until the pandemic flickers out to get reconstruction surgery, which is uncomfortable for her.

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"I was really looking forward to the surgery because that was my final step and once I was done with that, my life would get back to normal, but now it's even crazier because of the pandemic," Hardy said.

But, she's finding strength in what she cannot control in online support groups like Breast Connect.

"It's nice to have those people who are going through what you're going through to talk to them because they just understand exactly what you're dealing with," Hardy smiled.

While Hardy worries of the added risk of getting sick, she encourages others to stay home to protect people like her.

"Hopefully it's all over very soon for everyone," Hardy laughed.

If you are a breast cancer patient or survivor looking for community, log onto breastconnect.org to find resources. You can also request to join the Breast Connect Facebook group here.

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