"A humbling experience'
Aimee Burns homeschools her 6-year-old autistic son, but there are days when she can’t stand up because she is sick from chemotherapy treatments.
Everything changed for the Cross Roads family on April 8, and they soon learned the value of a strong community.
“I went in for a routine mammogram,” Burns said. “Breast cancer is not a diagnosis you want, and I will remember it for the rest of my days – getting those words told to me. But there is good in all things, and my motto is, ‘Faith is bigger than your fear.”’
Burns was diagnosed with stage 2 triple negative breast cancer, a rare and aggressive form of the disease. She underwent a double mastectomy and surgery to remove her lymph nodes a month later. Chemotherapy began before she had fully recovered from the surgery.
“The first round was a two-chemo drug combination, and they nicknamed one of the drugs red devil. And it literally is. I don’t wish that on my worst enemy,” Burns said. “Hair loss, fatigue, nausea, it bottomed out my immune system.
“I was having a lot of bone pain, difficulty walking, could not eat, could not tolerate food, I lost all my taste buds. Fatigue is one thing, but I couldn’t do anything I was so weak.”
Burns and her husband, Craig, built their house in the Cross Oaks Ranch subdivision 11 years ago to get away from busy city life and to settle into a place where their kids could have space.
“Here the kids can get out and ride bicycles and play,” Burns said. “You can do those types of things and be more connected with your neighbors and community. That’s what we were looking for.”
Craig commuted to Carrollton for work, and Aimee kept busy homeschooling her youngest, Joshua, while their 11-year-old, Matthew, attended Cross Oaks Elementary School. She was also active at Green Valley Baptist Church.
The family’s life was transformed in a few weeks, and the cancer affected each member differently.
“My littlest one, he struggled with that because he wants mommy to look like mommy. He wants mommy not to be sick,” Burns said.
Burns opted not to do reconstruction following her double mastectomy. She has come to terms with her radically transformed body by relying on her faith.
“That was my decision,” Burns said. “The healing process would have been longer and it would have been a more difficult process. I did not want to do that.
“It’s been different, but I have accepted it because the biggest thing for me is life and living. It’s no different from any other amputation, but it’s been a humbling experience. Our Lord has carried us through this thing and He’s going to see us through. I have no doubts or fears about that.”
Burns’ doctor caught the tumor early because she has annual screenings. She encourages women to do the same and is an advocate for breast cancer awareness. She said she supports efforts like the NFL’s “A Crucial Catch” campaign with the American Cancer Society, which spreads awareness of the importance of screenings and supplies grants for community screening programs.
“I like the idea of seeing those guys in pink supporting the breast cancer campaign,” Burns said. “The only way to know is to get it out there.”
The local community came together following Burns’ diagnosis. Members of her church, calling themselves “The A Team,” started a GoFundMe campaign and began working to help with the home when Burns is too sick.
“I have been so blessed by so many gracious people,” Burns said. “It is phenomenal how much support that we have gotten from people that we know, people that we don’t know. It has been a true blessing for us.”
Because her cancer is an aggressive form, it responds well to chemotherapy. Burns has eight weeks of treatment left. If the cancer doesn’t reoccur after five years, she’ll be declared in remission.
“Hope is the biggest thing that you have, not just with cancer but with everything,” Burns said. “If you lose that hope, the ability to know that it’s going to be OK, then you can get through anything that comes your way.”