How Angela Ellis Overcame Breast Cancer and Pursued Her Medical Career
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‘When Life Isn’t in Your Hands, You End Up Appreciating It More’

November 16, 2023

Angela in a hospital bed surrounded by her parentsFor Angela Ellis (DO’ 25), there’s much to be thankful for this year.

In the classroom, she was learning how to care for future patients. Outside of the classroom, she was receiving treatment for triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC).

“You hear about it, and you know people who have cancer, but you don’t think you’re ever going to get it,” said Ellis. “Especially at 27 years old.”

While breast cancer most often occurs in women 50 years of age or older, its more aggressive form impacts those at a younger age. Something Ellis has experienced herself and witnessed firsthand with her patients.

“On the first day of my hematology/oncology rotation, I saw a 22-year-old who was also diagnosed with TNBC,” Ellis shared.

Angela rings a bell, signifying the end of her chemo therapy“The doctor and I were with her, and she was so scared. I was able to say, ‘I know what you’re going through,’” she recalled as her voice broke. “‘I’m going through it too.’”

Ellis underwent a double mastectomy and reconstruction in May, took her board exams in June (and passed), and began chemotherapy in July.

On September 15th, she rang the bell, signifying the end of her treatment.

“It was really special for me to ring the bell on that day,” she said. “Because it was the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in the country among Latinas.

A lack of representation in medical research, combined with language barriers and cultural beliefs, puts the Hispanic/Latina population at a greater disadvantage.

Angela wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Stronger than cancer"“You don’t see a lot of Hispanic and Latino oncologists,” Ellis shares. “Being a Latina physician who has gone through cancer and would serve patients in that aspect is a big drive for me, which is why I continue to work hard.”

Having finished her treatment, Ellis is still on track to graduate with her class. While she’s determined to complete her medical school journey, it’s not the only one she’s on.

“I’ve taken a step back and realized that having a family, living life, and doing fun things matter to me. I don’t want to die tomorrow and think all I did was study and work,” she said.

“When life isn’t in your own hands anymore, you really do end up appreciating it more.”

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