TAMPA, Fla. - Emily Rhoads used her Instagram account as a diary to detail every step of her fight with breast cancer.
She was just 26 years old when she felt something.
"Knowing I had a breast cancer history in my family, I was always doing my self-checks and that's how I found my tumor," she explained.
But she said it was initially misdiagnosed.
"I went and got an ultrasound. Unfortunately, due to my age, I was just kind of brushed off and told, ‘Oh no, you're young, it's fine, you're healthy, go on and live your life.’ Then 10 months later my tumor doubled in size. It was about the size of a golf ball. it was protruding from my chest wall at this point, so I was like, OK, probably should get this checked out again. I was upset because it could have killed me," she continued.
Then the battle began.
"This was my first round of chemo. That chemo you're seeing right there, they had to push it manually. It's called the red devil and rightfully so. I was hospitalized a couple of times for having low white blood cells and getting infections. It's not common to have breast cancer in your 20s so I like to spread the word and say, ‘Hey we're out there and this does happen to us and don't brush it off because it could mean our lives.’"
The American Cancer Society was there to help every step of the way.
"Losing my hair was very traumatic so getting that wig from the American Cancer Society for free, that was absolutely amazing," said Rhoads. "When I first got diagnosed, I spent hours upon hours upon hours online on the American Cancer Society's website learning about my diagnosis, my treatment plans, the statistics, things that I could do to remain healthy while going through treatment."
Then came the victory of ringing the bell, marking the end of chemotherapy.
"It was so good, so good to be finally done with all of that."
Now this fighter and survivor is feeling good. "Right now I am healthy."
She's getting ready to lift up others at the Making Strides walks.
"After I was finished with my fight, I decided the best way to honor what I had been through and honor the ones who didn't have the same outcome as me was just to continue fundraising and to continue getting involved and spreading awareness, especially for young people such as myself," she explained.
She wants her new memories to be hopeful ones.
"One day we're going to have a world without cancer and the American Cancer Society is a huge part of that," said Rhoads.
The American Cancer Society Making Strides in person walks will return in October. Sign up is underway for the events.
These walks raise awareness and funding for breast cancer research and programs.
Here are the walks and dates in the Tampa Bay area:
- October 2- Raymond James Stadium - Tampa (Hillsborough)
- October 9- The Shops at Wiregrass - Wesley Chapel (Pasco)
- October 9- Lake Mirror Promenade - Lakeland (Polk)
- October 16 - Nathan Benderson Park - Sarasota (Sarasota/Manatee)
LINK: To sign up, www.MakingStridesWalk.org/Tampa