Twins typically share a great deal of experiences, both good and bad, over the course of their lives, and the Gayfield sisters are no exception.
Vatrecia and Vamekia Gayfield of Houston battled breast cancer together when they were diagnosed months apart at the age of 37.
Vatrecia was the first sister to be diagnosed. She went to Harris Health after feeling a lump in one of her breasts in December 2021. Shortly after that, the results came back: she had stage-3 breast cancer.
“I went through chemotherapy. I had a transfusion that messed with my heart that developed an infection,” Vatrecia told WFAA.
While supporting her sister as she underwent chemotherapy, Vamekia noticed a lump in her own breast in March 2022. A biopsy revealed she had stage-1 breast cancer.
Although cancer typically affects older individuals more frequently, the prevalence of early-onset cancer has soared. One study appearing in the British Medical Journal found that between 1990 and 2019, worldwide cancer cases among those under age 50 increased by 79.1% while the number of deaths increased by 27.7%. Lifestyle factors such as a poor diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and tobacco use are cited as the increase’s primary drivers.
Obesity, which is a raging health problem in the United States, is a considerable driver of several types of cancer, including renal, liver, stomach, thyroid, and pancreatic cancer.
Among women, breast cancer is considered the second-most deadly form of cancer, behind those affecting the lungs and bronchi.
As recently covered by The Dallas Express, this year’s projections of new cases of female and male breast cancer reported in Texas are expected to hit 20,510, according to Texas Oncology. A total of 3,503 of these cases are expected to be fatal.
In the case of Vatrecia and Vamekia, genetics played a much more significant role in their cancer diagnosis than lifestyle choices. They both tested positive for the BRCA gene, making them susceptible to both breast and ovarian cancer. Both sisters opted for hysterectomies after receiving the news.
“It was a lot, especially the hysterectomy because I don’t have children,” Vatrecia told WFAA. “That has been really hard to deal with. I won’t lie, I cried a lot about it, and it still makes me sad sometimes.”
Luckily, both sisters had a welcome surprise shortly after Vamekia’s diagnosis. She was pregnant.
Although fighting cancer while pregnant is more complex, the prospect of a new life acted as a beacon of hope in the gloomy situation.
“That was a blessing for the both of us,” Vatrecia recalled, with her niece Ryan Kinsley Gayfield being born nearly a year after her cancer diagnosis.
“Her daughter is like my daughter. I love her so much,” she said, explaining that the toddler refers to her as “aunty mama.”
United in so many ways, the Gayfield sisters now have an unbreakable bond.
“We were already close, but this was different. We were determined to fight cancer together like we have with everything else in life,” Vamekia said. “Now, we are more comfortable being emotional with each other.”