To call Cherí Andrew “determined” would be a massive understatement. She fought her way through a long, difficult, and frustrating experience and has come out a champion. The lesson she learned is this:
“You have to be your own advocate. Do not naively trust what doctors say. Educate yourself and demand the treatment you need. It could save your life.”
A family affair
In 2009, at the young age of 34, Cherí was diagnosed with bilateral breast cancer. At the time, the only history of breast cancer in her family was her paternal grandmother who also was diagnosed at age 34. Five years after Cherí’s diagnosis, her older sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer.
Starting down the wrong road
Despite several key factors (young age, family history, bilateral, invasive breast cancer diagnosis with micro-metastases), Cherí was sent for treatment with a general surgeon instead of being sent to a breast surgeon or surgical oncologist. Her double lumpectomy in June 2009 was a horrific experience for her. She was left with significant scars and cancer remained embedded in her chest wall. She awoke from the bilateral lumpectomy without pain killers. That traumatic ordeal was followed by months of inadequate follow-up planning or treatment by local doctors. She was left on her own in the chaotic maze of doctor referrals and insurance denials.
Cherí took it upon herself to advocate for her rights and needs as a patient living with cancer still in her chest wall. She found a surgical oncologist who would finally help lead her care. She paid out of pocket for a consult with this surgeon and a plastic surgeon, and she made plans to
proceed with a life-saving bilateral mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. Her insurance repeatedly denied her claim for these services, stating such services were available “in network.” They were not. Cherí refused to give up and sought help from Albie Aware. Within twenty-four hours of reaching out to Albie Aware, the insurance company conceded they had failed in providing quality care and agreed to cover Cherí’s surgery with the doctors she selected.
Trauma upon trauma
Cherí was fortunate to have an extensive network of local friends to help her on her journey. However, as she was preparing for her bilateral mastectomy, her family’s focus was derailed when her mother was almost killed in a car accident in Scotland. Cherí’s
surgery was delayed two weeks to allow her family time to get their mother home and allow Cherí’s younger sister to come help her through the surgery recovery. In November 2009, Cherí underwent a successful bilateral mastectomy and reconstruction.
In early 2010, she endured three of the four scheduled rounds of chemotherapy. Life threatening allergic reactions to the chemotherapy treatment caused the fourth round to be cancelled. Her final implant surgery was completed in May 2010.
Becoming an advocate for others
Cherí’s breast cancer journey led to her passion for breast cancer awareness and advocacy. It’s a passion that can only derive from having “been there, done that.” She always wears pink bracelets and proudly shares her status as a breast cancer survivor every chance she gets. “If what I learned from my difficult journey can be used to help ease the path for even one person, it was worth it. Wearing a pink ribbon won’t cure cancer, but it just might open a conversation with someone who
needs help,” she says. “I was blessed with a wonderful support network of family, friends, and Albie Aware. With Albie Aware in your corner, you’re never alone in the fight.”
Turning adversity into action
Having endured such adversity at a young age, Cherí has channeled her energy into helping others. Being part of Albie Aware’s Survivor of the Year, then Albie Champions excites her for the things Albie Aware is doing for Sacramento area residents who are facing a scary, uncertain breast cancer diagnosis. Having been crowned Albie Champions in 2016, Cherí and her fellow Pink Ladies continue fundraising to benefit Albie Aware. Over the past four years, The Pink Ladies have raised over $150,000 for the Foundation. Their fifth-annual End of Summer Celebration party will be held on September 12, 2020.
“I owe my life in part to Albie Aware. It’s an honor and privilege to pay forward the love and support I received from the Foundation. Together, we can save more lives!” Cherí says.