Earlier this year, when Philadelphian Andy Sealy found out she had cancer and needed a double mastectomy, she threw a good-bye party for her breasts and made headlines across the world.
The catchy moniker she came up with for the party — “Say Ta-ta to My Tatas” — only added to the fun she wanted to create with the pink-themed soiree.
But after the March 8 surgery to remove both her breasts, follow-up testing gave her some troubling news: she has Stage 4 (they originally thought she was Stage 1) metastatic breast cancer — and it is incurable.
“I was kind of like, ‘Alright. What do we do next?’ ” Sealy, 37, tells PEOPLE. “I can’t change it. I’m not giving up.”
So now, Sealy’s friends are the ones who are throwing a party on her behalf on May 21 to help her with medical and living expenses as she mounts the fight of her life.
They are calling it a “Banger” in honor of Sealy.
“I guess they kinda took a page out of my book,” she says. “That’s what I always say about a really good time or a really fun party — ‘It’s going to be a banger.’ My friends were like, ‘We really want to have a party for you.’ I just have a hard time accepting things for myself.”
The same goes for the GoFundMe account a friend started to help with her expenses.
“I’m grateful,” she says of both efforts on her behalf. “It’s hard for me because I’m usually the one that does things for other people. Being the one that’s having things done for makes me feel weird.”
Sealy admits the new diagnosis came as a shock, but she is refusing to let it crush her spirit.
“I have a really good spirit,” she says. “Cancer can take my body but it can’t take my spirit…I’m just trying to take life by the balls right now.”
Sealy discovered a small lump on her left breast in January that turned out to be benign but doctors found two others on her left breast — one on her areola — that were malignant. Initially, doctors believed it was Stage 1, meaning it hadn’t spread beyond her breasts and into her lymph nodes or elsewhere. Testing after her double mastectomy revealed that it had spread into 11 of her 13 lymph nodes so doctors did more testing and found it had spread to her bones on March 24.
“Unfortunately, although she noted a relatively small mass on exam, by the time she went to surgery, she had extensive lymph node involvement and then on her scanning she had evidence of bone metastases,” Mintzer tells PEOPLE. “So she presented with really what seemed to be Stage 1 disease but turned out to be Stage 4 disease. That was a surprise. Only about 10 percent of breast cancer patients come in with Stage 4 disease.”
Still, that doesn’t mean this is the end for Sealy. Her treatment plan includes hormonal therapy to throw her into remission — and hopefully keep her there for years, he says, adding that he’s had patients live for more than a decade with a similar diagnosis.
“What we try to communicate to these patients with Stage 4 disease that even though it may not be curable, you’re living with it, not dying from it,” he says. “She’s not dying. She’s not anywhere close to dying.
“She’s very vivacious and full of energy so this is not throwing in the towel, shutting things down,” he says. “This is about having a chronic disease — having the treatments to try to minimize the impact and side effects and put her in remission and keep her well.”
That is how exactly how Sealy is viewing the entire situation. She also plans to do as much as she can to raise awareness about breast cancer.
“I thought, ‘What am I supposed to do in this world?’ ” she says. “And I think helping to spread the word about the disease might be it. It woke me up…I think that hopefully if I help one person then it’s worth it.”
Right now, though, she’s on leave from her sales rep job and figuring out ongoing issues like health insurance and how she will support herself financially if she can’t work.
She’s also joined a Facebook group for those with metastatic breast cancer and is already discovering some things she wants to do something about.
“Only about 2 percent of breast cancer research funds are allocated to metastatic breast cancer,” she says. “I’m like, ‘What? Are you giving up?’ I’m not. If anyone can beat it it’s going to be me.”