TULSA - In February Cancer Treatment Centers of America observe National Cancer Prevention Month, and one Broken Arrow woman's story shows the importance of diagnosing early and testing often.
We're always told not to sweat the small stuff, don't put too much weight on the things that bring you down.
It's usually hard to do unless you're Amity Ritze.
“I said I feel like I’ve been in this metamorphosis kind of," she said.
A vivacious, ambitious, self-proclaimed professional student who lights up the CTCA's rehabilitation room, even when her metamorphosis left her feeling trapped in a cocoon.
“Cancer is a very small part of who I am.”
She did everything right: Regular check-ups, even self-exams, but in 2014 there was a lump.
“We couldn’t really see anything, the report was inconclusive and so I just monitored it for the next year.”
Her doctor only saw dense breast tissue, but a year later she couldn't ignore it.
“When he said the words it didn’t shock me. I didn’t feel sad, I didn’t feel angry. I felt, ok what are we going to do?"
She had stage four breast cancer by 2015.
“It didn’t phase her, she was going to keep on doing her exercise, keep on doing her life, law school. It didn’t stop her," said CTCA Physical Therapist Pam Veale.
She did her treatments, surgeries, medications, not to mention law school, all with a smile; until reality finally took its toll and her jet black hair.
“I just sat there and was like, 'Jesus loves me, Jesus loves me,' and cried; and I mourned it. And, sorry, it’s emotional still," she cried.
She remembers her father's words.
“That’s the one thing my dad said, he said, 'Amity we’ve got your back. We’ve always got your back. Don’t ever think otherwise.'”
Her father, Oklahoma State Representative Mike Ritze went on to write a bill for patients with dense breast tissue.
The bill, now passed, requires doctors to make a note in a patient's file and immediately inform them of their options.
“I’m very proud of that bill because there’s so many good things that have come out of my diagnosis. I’m so blessed.”
More than the bill her diagnosis brought good into the world.
She introduced a support group, Project 31, to Tulsa from Oklahoma City.
“It is led by breast cancer survivors for breast cancer survivors.”
But possibly the most impressive part, she graduated from law school despite it all.
“Just to walk across that stage and know that I did it.”
A miracle. not only that she's still here, but here with joy.
“If you get a diagnosis like this it’s not the end of the world.”
Joy that her cancer is not yet in remission, but under control; and a rocky, dark metamorphosis gifted her with the wings to soar over whatever comes next.
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