Melanie's story: Breast cancer teaches patience

Columbus, GAAugust 31, 2011 

On January 18, 2006, I was diagnosed with IDC, Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. On that day I became a part of a special community of women. None of us chose to belong to this special group but once you have been diagnosed with breast cancer you are a member for life, and it will forever change you.

Mine was caught early on my yearly mammogram. Aflac, whom I work for, gives their employees free yearly mammograms. Going to work for Aflac, probably saved my life.

When the first results came back it just stated that I needed to do another mammogram because something was noticed. My doctor tried to reassure me by saying it was probably just something on the film or a cyst. When I returned for the second mammogram, an ultrasound was also done. I knew from the look on the doctor’s face that it was something. A biopsy was recommended.

For some reason that day is one of the days from my journey that I remember so clearly. I was driving back to work, talking on my cell phone to my husband and crying… I’m glad there wasn’t a cop behind me because I’m sure I broke several laws.

I can only remember a few times where I really broke down during this whole journey. That day was one of them. Having the right attitude and determination goes a long way in fighting cancer. After a positive biopsy I opted for a lumpectomy. I had to do chemo and radiation. There are no words to describe how chemo makes you feel. Aside from the physical changes like going bald and puffiness from the steroids you just feel terrible. It’s poison they are pumping into you. I described it once as, take the flu and multiply it by like 100 and that’s how it feels!

On my chemo weeks it was struggle just to get out of bed, let alone do anything while I was out of the bed. But…with each passing day it got better. I have told people you learn to take each day at a time and some days each hour at a time. You can’t rush through the "getting better" part!

I remember when Dr. Smith told us it was cancer, he said something like in one year you will be back here and you will be better. All I can remember thinking was ONE YEAR!... Heck I can’t take this for one more minute and this is going to take a whole year. I’m not a patient person, but I learned to be.

Cancer has a way of slowing you down and making you think and stop taking things for granted. You begin to be thankful for each day whether it was good or bad. I also could NOT have gone through this journey without my faith. Jesus was my hiding place, my comfort and my peace.

I don’t know if Columbus residents realize how blessed we are to have the John B. Amos cancer center here in town. Dr. Pippas is my Oncologist and Dr. Cabelka was my Radiation Oncologist. I met some amazing people during my infusion sessions. I met people who had to drive hours to get here for treatments, so I am grateful to have the center right here. I crossed my 5 year mark in January of this year. My twin sister held a surprise party for me… It was a true milestone for me and for my friends and family. I have one more appointment with Dr. Pippas in a few weeks.

In a weird way I will miss all of the people at JBA. I owe them my life. I do not want cancer to define who I am. I refuse to let it take control of any part of me. But the fact remains that I am a breast cancer survivor and always will be. My prayer is that one day the cure will be found. Until then I can’t stress enough for women to have their yearly mammograms and do self-examinations. Early detection is so important.

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