Sammie Van Norstrand

First post: Feb 11, 2018 Latest post: Mar 17, 2018
In February of 2017, Sammie found a lump in in her right breast.  In March of 2017, while home for Spring Break, Sammie saw a Dr about the lump, who referred for an ultrasound, although she felt confident that it was a Fibroadenoma (a solid, noncancerous breast lump that occurs most often in women between the ages of 15 and 35).  The radiologist agreed, but informed Sammie she would have to recheck it at 6 months and 12 months until it was stable.  Life continued for Sammie with her finishing her first year at Univ of Portland, coming home for the summer, and returning to UP in August.  Upon her return she took on a leadership role as a Faith and Formation Ambassador, had a supporting role in the play "Appropriate" in October and came home for Christmas break in December.  All the while keeping a song in her heart and enjoying life as a college student.

In January of 2018, she returned to the radiologist for her recheck.  The lump had grown, so the Dr. ordered a biopsy, which Sammie flew back to Denver for and had done on Jan. 30th.   The results were malignant and Sammie was diagnosed with an "invasive ductal carcinoma" on Jan. 31st.   This is the most common type of breast cancer AND the most treatable.  ( 

We were told Sammie would need to take a medical leave from school for the semester, which broke her heart.  The first weekend of February, Tamra flew out to Portland to help Sammie pack up her things at UP and bring her home.  The University was an amazing support!  The officials gave Tamra and Sammie an apartment on campus for the weekend, they granted her medical leave so the tuition for the semester was reimbursed and they let her store her belongings in the basement of her dorm until next fall.  During the mass that Sunday (2/4), the priest performed a special "anointing of the sick" sacrament on Sammie, which was beautiful.  She has an amazing group of core friends that named themselves "Team Sammie"  They are having tshirts made to show their love on the days Sammie needs it most!  

The week of February 5th was busy with Dr. appts, consultations, tears and prayers.  On Feb. 5th she had a MRI and mammogram to see all the breast tissue and check for additional tumors.  Unfortunately, 2 more tumors were found, making the total area diseased to be about 6 cm.  That afternoon Sammie, Tamra and Mike visited a genetic counselor, sharing information about the risks of hereditary cancer and how Sammie should have the testing done, as the results would help her make surgery options and get the best treatment plan post surgery.  We agreed and her spit was sent off for testing.   The results will take 2-3 weeks (around the first of March) to be in.  

On Feb. 6th, Sammie, Mike and Tamra met with a highly endorsed surgeon, Dr. Jane Kercher, to discuss options.  Dr. Kercher was wonderful in talking directly to Sammie and treating her like a 19-year old woman.  Due to the location of the affected area, lumpectomy and mastectomy were offered and discussed.  Dr. Kercher emphasized that it was Sammie's decision, no matter how much advice and "information" she got from others, Sammie was the "Queen" of her body.  Sammie was understandably overwhelmed by this point and asked if she could have a few days to think about what she wanted to do.  Dr. Kercher kindly agreed and also encouraged us to visit with a plastic surgeon, so Sammie would have reconstruction information as well.

The next day, Feb. 7th, Mike, Tamra and Sammie met with another wonderful and reputable surgeon, Dr. Jeremy Williams, about reconstruction options -- implant or DIEP flap.  Dr. Williams has a 19-yr old daughter, so he was very honest with Sammie about what she should consider due to her age and the long life ahead of her.  He matter-of-factly recommended a mastectomy with implant, but also emphasized that it was HER body and she was the Queen of making a decision best for her.  His reasoning against a lumpectomy was because she would have to endure radiation that could cause skin disfigurement, and the chances of the cancer returning are greater.  Additionally, his advice against a mastectomy with DIEP flap as NOT a good option was because of the intensity of the surgery and recovery.  Sammie left the office feeling less overwhelmed and well informed.

The week ended with a conference call with Dr. Kercher on Feb. 9th.  She kindly and calmly talked with Sammie about the conversations she had had that week with the radiologist, the genetic counselor and Dr. Williams.  Everyone feels so strongly that Sammie is going to be OKAY.  The cancer she has is "boring".   Does it suck to go through it?!?  YES!!  But, she is young, healthy and STRONG!  


CaringBridge is a nonprofit social network dedicated to helping family and friends communicate with and support loved ones during a health journey. Learn more about CaringBridge.

To interact with Sammie’s website, sign in or register today.

By registering with CaringBridge, you will join over 300,000 people a day who are supporting friends and family members.

Sign In Or Register