Think pink

Published 11:59 pm Friday, October 16, 2009

My story: Stacy Jones

When Stacy Jones was first diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago, she felt a wide range of emotions – fear, concern, and, perhaps surprisingly, guilt.

“It sounds funny now, but one of my first thoughts was to ask how I could go through treatment and still take care of my two boys and allow my husband (veterinarian Dr. Troy Jones) to still go to work,” she said. “I almost felt guilty about it, if you can believe that. But I had so many people who were there to help me make it work.”

Jones explained that she was first diagnosed in December 2004, two days before her 36th birthday. She had discovered a “little knot” on her chest prior to that day.

“I was doing a self-exam and found a little bump,” she said. “I showed it to my doctor and he said he didn’t think it was anything to worry about, but he wasn’t willing to stake my life on it. So, I had a mammogram, ultrasound and a biopsy, all on the same day in Montgomery.”

Jones had a lumpectomy done to remove the first growth. It was following that initial surgery that she received terrifying news – the tumor had metastasized and had spread into her lymph nodes.

“At that point, I had a full mastectomy (breast removal surgery),” she said. “That was followed by chemotherapy and radiation. I wasn’t really too scared (about dying), until I got the news that it had spread to the lymph nodes. That’s when it really got scary.”

Jones began to lose her hair after the second chemotherapy treatment in June 2005, and said it did not grow back completely until Christmas of that year. She also admitted it was hard to explain the cancer to her two boys, Chandler, who was 7 at the time, and J.W., who was 4.

However, she smiled when remembering what Chandler said the first time he saw her without any hair.

“He said, ‘Mommy, you look like the Mr. Clean man,'” Jones said. “And with J.W., his favorite thing was to help me pick out a wig. There was one that had long, blonde hair. He liked that one the best.”

Jones’ chemotherapy and radiation treatments – and subsequent reconstructive surgeries – were successful, and she has been cancer free for five years. She said the best advice she would give would be to do self-exams regularly and always ask questions.

“See a doctor and ask him everything you want to know,” she said. “And if you don’t like the answer that doctor gives you, go and see another one. You can never be too careful.”

My story: Corrie Owens

Corrie Owens said it’s thanks to a “kindergarten friend” that she is still alive today.

Owens has had breast cancer twice in her life, in 1985 and in 2000.

“In 1985, I had a small tumor that my gynecologist had been watching for a while,” Owens said. “Bill Hansford, my friend who I first met in kindergarten, who was a doctor in Opp at the time, insisted that I get it taken out right away. I really did it to please him, more than anything.”

Owens went to the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer in Houston for her treatment, which included radiation as well as a masectomy.

She contracted breast cancer against in 2000, and again called Hansford – who was living in Birmingham at the time – for his advice. It was the same as before, as he instructed her to have the tumor treated right away. This time, she stayed closer to home for treatment.

“I had radiation therapy in Dothan five days a week for six weeks,” she said. “That was tough. It really robs you of your energy, more than anything else. And then I had a second masectomy and breast reconstructive surgery, and two months later I had a hystorectomy. But I’ve survived it all, and I consider myself thankful.”

Owens said she had an “inner peace” that allowed her to keep a positive attitude upon hearing the news of her breast cancer.

“I tried to tell other people that I was going to be fine,” she said. “I had this inner peace the Lord gave me. He wasn’t ready for me to ‘come home’ just yet. I taught voice and piano at LBW for 17 years, and I guess the Lord wanted me to keep doing that.”

My story: Marie Spann

Thanks to advances in medical technology, Marie Spann said her breast cancer treatment five years ago was relatively painless compared to what “could have been a horrific experience.”

Spann was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2004, when a tumor was discovered during a routine mammogram. The tumor had been discovered early and had not invaded lymph nodes, so surgical removal was not a problem.

She said she was given options for post-surgery treatment, and decided to try a new procedure called “MammoSite.”

“There was no historical data at the time to suggest how effective the treatment might be in the long-term,” she said. “But after discussing the facts with my surgeon, and visiting with the radiation oncologist, I picked the MammoSite treatment. The other option would have been to have daily external radiation for approximately 36 days.”

Spann said during the MammoSite treatment, a temporary catheter and balloon were transplanted into the breast where the tumor had been located. For five days, twice daily, radiation was administered on an outpatient basis, and was painless. Once the last treatment was administered on the fifth day, the catheter and balloon were removed and she was released from treatment; she only returned for periodic check-ups.

“I feel blessed to have had so little disruption from what could have been a horrific experience,” she said. “I thank God that, if I had to have breast cancer, I could have this form of treatment.”