Young women are facing breast cancer diagnosis before mammograms are recommended

Young survivors of breast cancer
Young survivors of breast cancer

HOUSTON – We are coming to the end of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this year there are two former KPRC 2 employees impacted by aggressive forms of the disease.

Former reporter, Lyndsay Levingston Christian, and a former producer’s 19-year-old-daughter, Fayth Garmley.

Fayth’s story

“I think I was in a shock for like the first month of just -- I was living my regular life, and then I find out I have cancer,” Garmley said. “Now it’s doctor visits almost every day.”

Garmley shared a video from her Facebook page, Faith for Fayth, of her and her mom shaving her head. She said it helped her regain control after the unfair diagnosis.

“I can get up. I can get dressed. I can put my makeup on and start the day and just pretend that I don’t have cancer for a minute,” she said.

Fayth’s cancer, stage 3 angiosarcoma, was so aggressive she instantly had to quit school in Florida and move to Houston for treatment a week after diagnosis.

There was no time to freeze her eggs and, according to her doctor, she may still need a mastectomy.

Her oncologist, Dr. Neeta Somaiah, from MD Anderson said this kind of cancer is extremely rare.

“To be honest, I haven’t seen a primary breast angiosarcoma in a teenager," Somaiah said. "Though, it has been described in case reports here and there. The median age for a primary breast angiosarcoma is in the late 50s.”

Getting this diagnosis at a young age was scary, but during a pandemic it has added unique challenges for Fayth. Hospital restrictions at MD Anderson, in place to protect patients from COVID-19, didn’t allow for patients to have any visitors with them. Only pediatric patients were allowed to have one parent in the room and because of Fayth’s age she is not a pediatric patient.

“I’m 19, so I’m technically an adult, and I can’t have my parents with me for a lot of my visits," she said. "My first round of chemo I had to stay in the hospital for five days. That was my first time I’d ever stayed in the hospital ... then, just at that, like, I couldn’t even have, like, my mom next to me.”

Who is at risk?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most breast cancers are found in women 50-years-old and older.

Black women, some Jewish women and those with a family history carry more risk factors for complications.

Somaiah said Garmley had none of the risk factors, which is why self-exams and advocating for yourself when something doesn’t feel right can save lives.

Lyndsay’s story

Former KPRC reporter, Lyndsay Levingston Christian, was only 37 when she got triple-negative breast cancer.

“So it was like, ‘Oh! Freeze your eggs!’ Okay, then, ‘Start chemo! Oh, do this!'" Christian said. "It was a very quick process and it’s taken me all of these months to really process and reflect on the journey and it has been a significant one.”

Now she advises women to do the following:

“Schedule a genetic test," she said. “Know your family history. Advocate for mammograms if you’re under the age of 40 and you have a family history of breast cancer and/or cancer in your family, and continue the conversation beyond the month of October.”

Through all this, Christian found out she’s a BRCA1 carrier.

She is preparing for a surgery on Thursday to remove her ovaries because of the added risk for other cancers because of that gene mutation.

Now to help other women facing a young diagnosis, she started an organization called Surthriver.