To this day, Sandy McAndrews of New Hampton, NH, still has a hard time believing that she had cancer. Starting as a teenager, she lived a clean and healthy life. She competed in heavy weightlifting contests, made sure she did six hours of cardio every week and at least two hours of weightlifting a day. She had a healthy diet, never smoked, or did drugs. She drank very little alcohol. Life was good – she was happily married and bought a house with her husband in April 2015. She started a job that she loved in November 2015.
Sandy’s life changed one day after her yearly mammogram and annual Pap exam in 2016 with two phone calls. The first call was about her mammogram—her results were abnormal, and they wanted to do a repeat mammogram. Literally about 10 minutes later she got another call, this time to hear that her Pap exam was also abnormal, and she needed a CAT scan.
On September 26th, 2016 Sandy was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a partial mastectomy on October 3rd, 2016.
Soon after her breast cancer diagnosis, a CAT scan revealed suspicious spots on her ovaries. A week after her partial mastectomy, Sandy had surgery to remove her ovaries. The cancer spread further than anticipated, and the surgery led to the removal of many organs in her pelvis and abdomen. She had a complete hysterectomy. She was diagnosed with Stage 3 ovarian cancer. She went through six months of chemotherapy, followed by radiation every day for 12 weeks. Throughout it all, her husband, Michael, stood by her and took care of her, even as he suffered from his own health issues. They worked as a team.
She was keeping it all together as well as possible, until one morning her hair came out in clumps in the shower. A close friend removed the remaining hair from her head. “When I looked in the mirror and saw I was bald, it really hit me that this is real. I really have cancer and am fighting for my life. I always kept my sense of humor no matter how bad I felt,” said Sandy.
During radiation treatments with The Elliot, Sandy met with a social worker for help with her anxiety. She still uses some of the tools that she was given to manage her stress when she needs them, and she was provided consistent support during that time. “Each time I went for radiation, I was thankful to the staff for making me feel well cared for. The environment was supportive, open, and the women there are great—I even made friends with other patients. To this day, I keep in touch with some of them,” said Sandy.
She finished chemotherapy and radiation by August 2017 and found a new job by January 2018. Sandy then had reconstructive surgery with The Elliot in 2019 to make repairs after the partial mastectomy, which has helped her to feel more whole again. She said, “It’s now October 2022, and look at me now!! I am a five-year cancer survivor. I changed jobs and have an even better one working from home. I am doing great.”
Sandy continues to have annual screenings with Dr. Shikhman with The Elliot Breast Health Center at The Elliot at River’s Edge in Manchester. She said, “The Elliot Breast Health Center truly is the best place ever. I absolutely recommend Dr. Shikhman to other patients. She is my inspiration and she helped me through the difficult parts of my experience. I look forward to seeing her, and if I am having a sad day, I always have a better day after I see her.”
Her husband’s health has declined a great deal since 2019. “He was my caretaker when I was sick with cancer. Now, I am very fortunate to be well enough to care for him. Every day that I wake up and I look into my husband’s eyes and we are both OK, it is a gift and a blessing,” said Sandy.