Kambri Crews was stocking inventory in the dank basement of the New York comedy club she owns when she received a life-changing phone call: She had breast cancer.
While the 46-year-old knew she’d be getting the biopsy results from the lump she’d found in her breast months earlier, the news still came as a shock.
“My first thought, I'm sure almost everyone's first thought is, 'I'm going to die,'" she told InsideEdition.com. "'I guess I've got to sign over my life insurance and who's going to take care of my dogs?' I had all those morbid mortality thoughts. I'm discovering now, as people are telling me their stories and I'm learning more, that there are lots of other women, most people can get through this okay at the end.”
Crews, who owns Q.E.D, a comedy club, in Queens, said she’d never regularly given herself breast exams but she knew something was wrong when she felt a lump on one of her breasts in March.
Doctors diagnosed her with breast cancer in late August after several tests.
Crews underwent an annual mammogram during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October 2016 and everything came back fine.
Doctors did, however, note that she had dense breasts. Crews admitted that at the time she really didn’t have an idea of what that meant and didn’t think it was anything to worry about.
Dense breasts, however, make it difficult to detect anything out of the ordinary during a mammogram, doctors say. On a mammogram, non-dense breast tissue appears dark and transparent, while dense breast tissue appears as a solid white area.
“It's a normal thing for breasts to have lumps and bumps and weird changes. But this one felt different than anything I'd ever felt before,” Crews said. “It was much harder. Where it was, it just struck me as something I should get checked out.”
When she brought up the lump to her doctor in April, they ordered an ultrasound and another mammogram for her. It was the ultrasound that revealed that her concerns were founded. Doctors ordered a biopsy for the lump.
“I never really knew what a biopsy was. It wasn't painful really. They numb you up and... they suck out tissue,” Crews said. “That biopsy result of course was, 'Sorry, you have cancer.'”
Crews’ husband, comedian Christian Finnegan, said the news hit him hard, but he was focused on being a support to his wife.
“It’s hard to explain the feelings you feel. It’s kind of like when you go on top of a roller coaster and you feel your stomach kind of hit the top of your lungs and slam back down,” Finnegan said. “The words breast cancer have such a weight to them. If you are spouse of someone who has just found out news like that, adding to the terror isn’t really an option. I felt like I had to immediately swallow those feelings.”
When Crews knew the diagnosis was official and that she may need to miss days at her comedy club, she and Finnegan released a video on Facebook letting people know. She was able to use comedy to bring light to a potentially bad situation.
“It’s not all negative though," she jokes in the video. "I feel really glad about my prognosis - so great that the bad news is, Christian, you have to delete the Tinder account you’re working on.”
Family and friends were very supportive. She also said the video impacted some in a way she hadn’t predicted.
“I started getting a lot of private messages from people thanking me, [and saying] that they had had it too,” Crews said. “They were so sorry that I was going through this. A couple people were afraid to tell people and they were like ‘thank you for doing this. It made me feel like I can share my story now,’ so that's been a nice, unexpected bonus.”
On Oct. 16., Crews underwent a lumpectomy, in which doctors only remove the cancerous mass from the breast tissue instead of the entire breast. She opted for it instead of a mastectomy because she and her doctor wanted to preserve as much of her breast tissue as possible.
“My doctor is very conservative when it comes to breast tissue conservation. There's been a push, or trend, to have these radical mastectomies. Just get ‘em off. And it's a lot of fear, and rightly so,” Crews said. “A lot of women, my doctor has told me, do regret having those mastectomies, because after reconstruction, there is no sensation. You don't have nipples. It's really a very difficult surgery.”
Crews may need to undergo a mastectomy once she finds out her pathology results this Friday. As for now, she can’t do anything but wait to see what the next step of her treatment will be.
Crews said her recovery from surgery has been pretty swift outside of some fearful thoughts. She also has had to take minimal painkillers.
“I can see why this waiting has got to really torment to some people,” Crews said. Thankfully, she has had friends that have helped calm her fears during those moments.
Overall, she said she is doing well. While she waits, she’s been enjoying the moments with family, and the fresh air.
"I'm not gonna crawl up in a ball and cry and be depressed," Crews said. "The bills still have to be paid, the theater still has to be run, I still have two dogs that need to be walked and fed, and a husband who cares about me."