Carla Hall's father was ill. After several procedures and over a year of ongoing problems, a physician finally diagnosed her father with stage IV prostate cancer.
When she returned from New York, she had the mammogram. It was quickly followed by a biopsy. Within an hour, she had the results. She had HER2 positive stage II breast cancer. The news was shocking to the 36-year-old mother of three.
“I’m dying,” she thought as tears flooded her eyes. “How will I tell my daughters that Mommy has cancer,” she thought. But even more shocking was her mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer only three weeks later.
Carla’s husband researched the various treatment centers in Central Florida. “When we walked into MD Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, we knew this was the place,” Carla says. “Everything had been thought through. They had engineered everything to make you feel comfortable.”
When Carla met with medical oncologist Nikita Shah, MD, she felt relieved. “More questions than answers exist for younger women with breast cancer. Everyone wanted to put me into a trial group,” she explains. But MD Anderson – Orlando was different; Dr. Shah had a plan. “When I first met her, she drew a picture of the cancer, explained the need to treat it aggressively, and shared how I would feel at each stage. She was right.”
Carla and her father received their chemotherapy treatments together in the same pod while her mother sat by their side. It was the first time MD Anderson – Orlando had treated a father, mother, and daughter at the same time.
“If it could happen, it did,” Carla shares about her treatment, but her spirit did not waver. Nineteen months after her father’s diagnosis, he had lost his battle. She began asking God “Why?” but soon realized she needed to ask, “What do you want me to do?”
Carla was in a battle for her identity. She lost her father, her job, her security, her hair and then her breasts, but found strength in her faith and her cancer center. “I knew MD Anderson - Orlando wanted to take care of me,” she says. “Everyone makes me feel like I am worth fighting this disease for. They see so many patients, yet they always make me feel special.”
Spiky hair covers the once bald head, reconstructive surgery has removed the evidence of the mastectomy, and medication continues to keep the cancer in remission. As she continues to recover, she offers her strength to other women. “It will be okay,” Carla says. “Look at me.”
“I got involved with Women Playing For T.I.M.E. because I want to give back. MD Anderson – Orlando gave me so much, I have to give back,” she says.