Sarah Newman was barely into her 30s when she was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple of years ago.
She wasn't even old enough for routine mammograms when she discovered a lump after her youngest son was crawling around on her.
"He was tired and he was flailing around on me and when I went to get him off I felt a mass," Sarah said. "That was on a Monday. By Wednesday I was at the doctor. That Friday I had a mammogram and a biopsy by the next Wednesday. It all happened so fast. It was a blur thinking about it now. It was surreal."
Sarah said that during those early days fear of the unknown dominated her thoughts.
"Part of me was thinking it wasn't real but another part of me realized with my family history, it could be," she said. "My mind was checked out from anything but finding answers and finding out what was going on."
Sarah's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer soon after her 60th birthday and her aunt was diagnosed six to eight months after Sarah. Her great-grandmother had ovarian cancer.
Even without the incidence of cancer in her family, Sarah's radiologist indicated that he strongly believed it was cancer after the ultrasound and before the biopsy.
"He literally told me he'd eat his own hat if it wasn't cancer," she said.
Unfortunately her radiologist was right. Sarah was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 32.
"I think at that point I just went into survivor mode," she said.
Sarah met with a surgeon in Texarkana who strongly recommended that she go to UAMS in Little Rock and that's what she did. Once there she met with an oncology surgeon who headed up her medical team.
"That was when it got real for us. We didn't know the extent of it at all until that first Little Rock appointment," she said.
Her treatment plan included chemotherapy prior to a double mastectomy.
"That first oncology appointment was overwhelming. They moved super fast. Within two to three weeks I was beginning six rounds of chemo. They shrunk the mass so it would be easier to remove," she said.
Sarah experienced many of the issues that often go hand-in-hand with chemo nausea, vomiting and extreme fatigue. Family, friends, co-workers and her church family pulled together to ease the burden for her, her husband Dustin and her young sons Tyler and Nolan.
"My mother-in-law came in from Georgia and my mother traveled from Amarillo. They were there for five of my six chemo treatments. I want to express how grateful I was for the support, how thankful I am for my (work) family, church and my family. I couldn't have survived without them," Sarah said.
That support system helped take great care of her children while the chemo took its toll on her.
"They were spoiled while I was sick. They were really resilient and they would brighten my day on the worst days. I had a great support system. I never felt like they weren't taken care of when I was sick," Sarah said.
Once the mass was shrunk, Sarah underwent a bilateral mastectomy. She also had tissue expanders put in during the nine-hour surgery.
"That was one of the hardest parts," she said.
Getting the expanders increased her risk for infection, which is exactly what happened four to five weeks after surgery.
"That was by far the worst part. It almost killed me. I was taken to UAMS to remove the expanders," she said. "When I woke up from my mastectomy, the impact wasn't as hard because I had something there but when I woke up from the second surgery there was nothing there so the reality set in."
She had the expanders put back in three months later. She said if she had it to do over again she would wait to get the expanders until after she healed from mastectomy.
Sarah underwent five surgeries in a year but eventually got the reconstructive surgery for her breasts completed.
She was also on a maintenance chemotherapy drug for a full year, but she said it was nothing compared to that first chemotherapy cocktail.
Sarah was tested to see if there was a genetic connection that's responsible for her cancer but to the surprise of her geneticist, none was found.
"It surprised him that no connection was found but he thinks it's because there's a genetic connection that hasn't been discovered yet," Sarah said.
As a preventative measure she also had a hysterectomy.
"I chose to do that because my cancer is estrogen-fed and that is the most common kind of ovarian cancer and the chemotherapy had already made me infertile," she said.
She no longer has to do mammograms because all of her breast tissue was removed but she does see an oncologist every three months. Eventually that will be moved to every six months.
The experience has changed her perspective in many ways.
"There are so many ways this has changed my perspective. You never know what life is going to throw at you. Don't be afraid to tell other people about God and enjoy the small things we take for granted, like being able to get up in the morning and take your kids to school or being able to walk into work. There were days I was in the bed sick and I couldn't do that," she said. "On the days you want to strangle your kids because they're fussing, you have to remember how blessed you are to be a mom. There are so many little things we should be grateful for."
Being named as the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Texarkana's Honorary Survivor is an honor for Sarah.
"It's really indescribable. It's a very humbling experience. I see so many around me going through this and I'm so grateful to be a survivor. I don't know why God has given me this opportunity but I know there's a reason for it. I hope He leads me to it. I just tell women that they're never too young for breast cancer and to do their exams. It is so important. It could save your life."
"It's also exciting for my husband and my kids to get celebrate, too. They definitely deserve a celebration. We're all survivors."
Sarah will represent other survivors at the race, which takes place Oct. 19 beginning at the Front Street Plaza.
"Sarah was chosen as Survivor of the year for her strength, perservance and faith," said Amber Lawrence, Southwest region director for Susan G. Komen Arkansas. "She was diagnosed at such a young age and never gave up hope. She continued, instead of worrying about herself and diagnosis, to encourage and love those around her. She is a true picture of a survivor."
"On race day Sarah gets to enjoy the day. She does start our race that day, and instead of riding at the front of the parade, Sarah is choosing to walk along her peers cheering on those around her," Lawrence said.