Hopewell teen fights to win the battle against breast cancer

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - According to the American Cancer Society, more than 200,000 women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer this year. Many of those women will be 50 years old and older. However, as one high school senior recently found out, breast cancer does not discriminate.

Ebonee Claiborne livens up any crowd. The 18-year-old Hopewell High School senior likes to have fun, and she has been that way since she was a little girl.

"I love to interact with people. I love to make people laugh," said Claiborne.

She also loves a good competition. Over the years, you could find her racing the neighborhood boys, and challenging them in football and baseball.

"I would be so upset if I do not win, or if I don't get my way," said Claiborne.

However, it was during a playful wrestling match at a friend's home back in August - just about two weeks before beginning her senior year - when she noticed that something felt differently.

"It was hard. It was round. It was right in the middle. So, you could feel it but it was inside of my breast so it was kind of like a tumor, I guess you can say," said Claiborne.

Within a week, the lump grew, so her mom took her to a doctor to have it checked out. At first, doctors thought it was a hormonal-related cyst, but biopsy results lead doctors to call Ebonee's mom immediately.

Her only daughter, and the baby of the family, had an aggressive form of breast cancer.

"I had to find the words to tell her. I mean, because I was hoping and praying that they would call back and say they made a mistake, but that call never came. That call never came," said Ebonee's mother, Rita Jones.

The diagnosis shocked all of them because breast cancer doesn't run in Ebonee's family. She underwent two types of chemotherapy in November. It caused her to lose her hair, but the chemo did nothing for the spreading cancer cells.

So, on April 7th, doctors removed Ebonee's right breast - something she and her family didn't expect.

"I felt that I wouldn't be beautiful any more. I felt that my body wouldn't be the same. They offered me reconstruction, but at this time, I have to wake up everyday and look at this. So, it's just like my body doesn't look the same to me," said Claiborne.

Through the tears of getting used to her new normal, Ebonee still makes people laugh as usual.

With a new scar on her chest, she still snaps and sends cute selfies, especially since she says she is enjoying her new hairdo.

"If I don't want to wear it this way, I can just flick it over here, and if I don't like it here, I can just flick it back to the middle."

She gets strength each day by clinging to her doting mom, and joking with friends like Tanya and Rage. Her future keeps her going as well- she wants to go into the military and travel the world.

"I can't let this or what I'm going through take a toll on me," said Claiborne.

Ebonee says this experience has taught her patience as well as the value of life. It has also taught her a lesson that she now shares with any young lady who will listen.

"Your body is a temple. Praise it. Do everything you can to keep your temple at its best," said Claiborne.

Ebonee still has radiation and reconstruction ahead of her, but right now, she is focused on her graduation - which is Saturday, June 7.

The National Cancer Institute says breast cancer is the most common cancer among teenage and young adult women aged 15 to 39 years.

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