First mother, then daughter developed breast cancer — now they support each other every step of the way

A mother and daughter fight breast cancer together, one chemo session at a time. This is their story of love, compassion and faith.

Parents always want to pass on good things to their children: wisdom, advice, family recipes. Wanda Anderson has modeled strength and resilience for her daughter as they both receive treatment for breast cancer.

First diagnosis

In 2008, when she was 46, Wanda felt lumps in her breasts. Having just lost her job, she had no insurance coverage. So she made an appointment for a mammogram with the Norton Prevention & Wellness Mobile Prevention Center, which offers community screenings for breast health in locations around Greater Louisville.

“They called to say that yes, I had cancer,” Wanda said. “I had to call them back. I needed time to process that information.”

Wanda was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. Her cancer also had spread to her lymph nodes, as well as her lung and chest wall.

After the initial shock, she said to herself, “I’ve got to fight to be here. I’m going to be here for my daughter.”

That daughter, Wynika Anderson, then 26, was there for her mother — driving her to appointments, praying with her and being her biggest supporter.

Wanda’s care team at Norton Cancer Institute included oncologist/hematologist Laila S. Agrawal, M.D., who guided Wanda through a single mastectomy surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“Having Dr. Agrawal there for me really helped,” Wanda said. “She was there with empathy, understanding and information. For example, she explained all the potential side effects for anything we did.”

The journey was not easy, but with the expertise of the team at Norton Cancer Institute and the love and support of her family, Wanda’s cancer has been in remission for five years.

Age guidelines differ for women of average risk, but national health organizations recommend that women begin receiving breast cancer screenings as early as age 40. If you have questions or would like to determine if a mammogram is best for you, call (502) 259-7465 to speak with a breast health navigator.

Daughter follows in mom’s footsteps of strength and resilience

In 2021, Wynika felt lumps in her breast. Mom wasted no time in getting Wynika to see doctors at Norton Cancer Institute. They put Wynika on a course of chemotherapy. That treatment was supplemented with complementary therapies including art and music, and Norton Healthcare’s facility dog program.

Wynika continues to go to work at a retirement community, even after difficult treatments.

“I feel better when I’m with my residents,” Wynika said.

A consistent routine, care from her mom and son Kingston (now 11 years old), and her faith have been key to Wynika’s support system.

Though she sees her oncologist about every other week, Wynika’s prognosis is good, and she feels hopeful about her future.

Advice for the community

Wanda wants you to know that you need to care of your health.

“Even if you don’t have insurance, like I didn’t when I was first diagnosed, you have to check your own body,” Wanda said.

She acknowledges that statistics show that cancer rates are higher for the Black community than for other groups. This higher risk makes early detection and preventive care even more important.

Wanda spends time sharing her journey with other cancer patients and hopes to get the word out to her community that prevention is important, as is taking care of your health.

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