UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine - Spring 2016 - Page 5

survivor profile All of those questions were answered at UAB — except the marriage question; that was answered by Will Sparks, who stood by her side throughout her fight. He shaved his head when she lost her hair to chemotherapy treatments, and he always tried his best to pick her up when she was down. Jessica and Will Sparks married October 6, 2012, a year after her diagnosis, eight months after she finished chemotherapy, seven months after her lumpectomy, four months after her radiation treatments ended — and almost one year to the day after Jessica preserved her eggs in hopes that one day, after her body had fought through aggressive cancer treatment, she may carry a child. Jessica would depend on science, research and the expertise of a team of UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center physicians to guide her down the right path for treatment. The UAB Breast Health Center referred her to UAB’s Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Clinic team, which offered cutting-edge treatments to keep alive her hope of having a baby if she survived cancer. The beginning Jessica Sparks By T YLER GREER BREAST CANCER SURVIVOR Jessica Sparks asked many questions when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 at age 31: Would she survive? Would she need a mastectomy — would it be one breast or both? Would she ever marry? Would she be able to have a child of her own? 6 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R Jessica remembers well when she first noticed a lump on her breast. How would any woman not remember that moment? But for the then-31-year-old, her life was on the cusp of taking off. She was a student in UAB’s School of Nursing, working to get her Nurse Practitioner degree after starting off in the Accelerated Master’s in Nursing Pathway in 2009. Jessica had always wanted to be on the front lines of caring for others in need. She had just gotten a job at a Huntsville hospital and moved there to be closer to Will. And on Friday, July 29, Jessica was talking to Will on the phone when she scratched an itch on her chest. That’s when she felt a lump. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘You know, as young as I am, this is probably nothing,’” Jessica says. “Still, when you discover something like that, you want to get it checked out.” Three days later, Jessica called her physician Cheré Stewart, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, who told her to come in immediately. Dr. Stewart ordered a mammogram and ultrasound, which didn’t reveal the answers the physicians needed, so a biopsy was then performed during her appointment on August 22. Within 20 minutes of the biopsy’s completion, Jessica learned she had breast cancer. “I went in that morning for a mammogram thinking it was probably benign because I’m so young, and then I left that same afternoon with a cancer diagnosis,” Jessica says. “No one expects to be diagnosed with cancer, ever. And at that age, especially.” Three days later, on August 25, 2011, Jessica spent that day — her 32nd birthday — with her mother and her aunt meeting with a team of physicians from UAB’s Breast Health Center to discuss her options. “I felt like I was in ‘The Twilight Zone,’” Jessica says. “My mom, my aunt and I had planned a fun day of girl stuff for my birthday. Instead, you’re faced with a ton of decisions that will alter the course of the rest of your life.” Preserving fertility The idea of personalized medicine has many meanings, including how to care for a patient long term when the