Patient Stories: Chawnte Randall

Chawnte Randall was completely blindsided by her breast cancer diagnosis at the age of 40. It was October of 2017, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and she was halfway through her annual check-up when a lump was discovered in her breast. “My GYN ordered a mammogram and an ultrasound,” Chawnte said during a recent conversation; “It took about 12 days of rapid fire testing to get my diagnosis of Stage 2B Triple Negative Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and from there I went into a whirlwind of decision making.”

Chawnte opted for a double mastectomy, hoping to both remove the cancer and prevent its possible return. “I had my port placed in December of 2017, and from January to May of 2018 I went through my chemo journey.” After five months of treatment, she was considered cancer free. “I was NED – no evidence of disease,” she added; “That’s when I decided to commit myself to advocacy.”

Hoping to increase awareness about breast cancer, Chawnte began sharing her story on social media and with her colleagues at work. “I remember when we learned about breast cancer in elementary school. The woman who spoke to us about it was caucasian,” she recalled; “She didn’t look like us, so we didn’t pay much attention to it. But black women are 40% more likely to have negative outcomes than white women. We’re dying at a higher rate. I wanted to not only speak up for young women, but also young women of color.”

Continuing along the comeback trail, Chawnte began reconstructive surgery and was hitting the gym regularly. “I was doing Crossfit, flipping tires and all that, but I started to feel a burning sensation in my breast and I was having shortness of breath,” she explained: “My plastic surgeon ordered an x-ray and a chest CT and they found a metastatic bone lesion in my sternum.” 

A biopsy was ordered immediately and it confirmed that Chawnte was now metastatic triple negative. During this time her care became much more complicated. “I was being seen at a private facility, but I went to Hopkins for second opinions and my plastic surgery,” she clarified; “I wish I would have known about Ciitizen at this point because when you have testing at different facilities it’s quite difficult to coordinate care and access to all the information. Having all that information in my control would have made a difference.”

After her diagnosis at Hopkins, Chawnte was sent to the University of Maryland Proton Beam Center to discuss what to do about her metastatic bone lesion. “It took over a week to get my records transferred,” she remembered; “Which isn’t a terribly long time considering, but when you can’t breath and you’re in pain you want to start treatment as soon as possible.” There she underwent additional radiation, but she eventually went back to Hopkins for a clinical trial. “In the future, I know if I want a second opinion at a different hospital, especially those on a different record system, I could encounter a delay in starting that treatment,” she added. “When you’re metastatic and you have a line of treatment stop working, you may go to outside facilities for second and third opinions.”

As a result of her experiences, Chawnte encourages fellow patients to collect and organize their data with Ciitizen, particularly within the black community. “I think it will especially help women of color because a lot of us aren’t prepared to advocate for ourselves on the necessary level,” she stated; “We don’t realize early on that we have to haul our records around with us to every new consultation.”

As a metastatic patient, Chawnte wholly understands how the learning curve of a cancer patient can delay needed treatment and how a Ciitizen profile can speed that process along. “We don’t have time to dilly dally with paperwork,” she said; “We need decisions fast. In a hurry. With all of my records compiled in a Ciitizen account, that’s one less thing I have to worry about.”

Join Chawnte and sign up with Ciitizen to take control of your health data and help advance important breast cancer research.