Tykesha M Moving Fast to Beat Breast Cancer - Tykesha's Story

"I want other women to know that cancer is a diagnosis, not a lifestyle. It’s a mental thing, too. You need to stay focused, stay positive. It’s OK to be scared, but if you catch it early doctors can help you.”

When Tykesha Mott discovered a lump in her left breast in May 2018, she didn’t wait and hope it would go away. She didn’t figure she’d ask about it at her next annual checkup. She wanted to know what it was, and what had to be done, as soon as possible.

“My doctors are all at Newark Beth Israel, so I knew where I wanted to go,” says Tykesha, who was 49 at the time.

An ultrasound and mammogram at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center (NBI) suggested that the lump was malignant, and once again Tykesha moved quickly. She was able to make an appointment with Kevin Clarke, MD, a surgeon at NBI who confirmed the diagnosis with further tests and a biopsy.

The biopsy showed that cancer cells had already spread to her lymph nodes. Tykesha and Dr. Clarke discussed her options. A procedure known as a lumpectomy—a surgery that removes the cancerous growth and only a small amount of breast tissue—was not recommended because of the local extent of the cancer.

One possible option was surgery to remove the left breast, where the cancer was located. Another was to have a bilateral (double) mastectomy to remove both breasts.

Tykesha chose the double mastectomy. “I wanted to get it over with,” she says. “They said it’s cancer, and I didn’t want to prolong it.”

Dr. Clarke says many women make that choice under the same circumstances. “Even if there’s no genetic mutation, which tests showed Tykesha did not have, your risk for getting subsequent breast cancer is higher if you have breast cancer at an early age,” he explains. “Some women want to do everything up front to minimize the chance of the cancer ever coming back.”

Less than a month after she first discovered the lump, Tykesha was in the operating room. Dr. Clarke performed the bilateral mastectomy and removed several lymph nodes. Working with Thaddeus Boucree, MD, a plastic surgeon with NBI, he preserved as much breast skin as possible to make later reconstruction more natural.

Post-surgery Steps

The mastectomy was not the end of Tykesha’s cancer treatment. She saw NBI medical oncologist Maya Shah, MD, for chemotherapy and radiation to ensure that any cancer cells still circulating in her body were eliminated.

Tykesha started chemotherapy after healing from the mastectomy,and finished those treatments in November. Two rounds of radiation followed. “I didn’t experience any sickness or nausea,” she says, “and I continued to work after radiation and chemo.” “We have really good anti-nausea medication now, much better than what we had when I was in training,” says Dr. Shah. “Now, patients do really well.”

Tykesha then started to take tamoxifen, an oral hormone treatment. “When someone’s tumor has hormone receptors, as Tykesha’s did, they get treated with hormones to decrease the chance of recurrence,” Dr. Shah explains. “The type of hormonal treatment depends on their menopausal status.”

Throughout her treatment, Tykesha was surrounded by family and friends. “My support system was amazing,” Tykesha says gratefully, “especially my husband Abdul, son Paul and daughter Jasmine, who were always with me.”

Moving Forward

Finally, eight months after surgery, it was time for Tykesha to get her new breasts. In a series of procedures, Dr. Boucree inserted an implant into her right breast. He also transferred abdominal flap consisting of skin, fat and muscle to her left breast, where the cancer had been. “We’ve come a long way from the old days, where a mastectomy was more like an amputation,” says Dr. Boucree. “Now, we’re focused on keeping as much breast tissue as possible.”

Today, three years after she found that first lump, Tykesha “has no evidence of disease,” according to Dr. Clarke. She’ll continue to be monitored by Dr. Clarke and Dr. Shah so that if there is ever a recurrence, it will be caught and treated early.

Tykesha sometimes speaks to cancer support groups at the hospital and elsewhere. “She’s one of the most positive patients I’ve ever met,” says Dr. Shah. “ If little roadblocks come along, she takes them in stride and moves on. She’s a great influence for support groups.”

Tykesha says she shares her story “because I want other women to check themselves and to know that cancer is a diagnosis, not a lifestyle. It’s a mental thing, too. You need to stay focused, stay positive. It’s OK to be scared, but if you catch it early doctors can help you.”

RWJBarnabas Health and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, in partnership with Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey—the state’s only NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center—provide close-to-home access to the most advanced treatment options. To learn more, call 844.CANCERNJ (844-226-2376) or click here.