Breast cancer survivor: I’m blessed
Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of cancer survivor stories in recognition of this week’s Relay for Life.
If anyone knows the importance of early cancer detection and keeping an eye out for changes in your body, it’s Lisa McVay.
McVay is a nearly two-year breast cancer survivor, and said she developed the cancer in between mammograms.
“I go every year for a mammogram,” she said. “But my mammogram didn’t show it. It happened from one year to the next. We found it by noticing a disfiguration in the areola area of my breast. I knew something wasn’t right.”
McVay said she set up an appointment with Dr. Joseph Browning for an exam.
“He looked at it and said I should go see Dr. Tara Hardin,” she said. “She conducted a biopsy in her office and sent it off. When it came back, it wasn’t the answer I was looking for, but it was very small. It wasn’t even stage one yet.”
McVay, who was just days shy of 50, said she had to undergo four surgeries to remove the growth and take out her lymph nodes.
“When they went in, they took out five lymph nodes, and two out of the five already had cancer cells in them,” she said. “Later, they took out more lymph nodes, and those were clear.”
As a precautionary measure, McVay said she underwent radiation and chemotherapy at 21st Century Oncology in Andalusia.
“It was great because they had just opened it,” she said. “I can’t imagine having to go away, and I didn’t take treatments every day. It was a big convenience.”
McVay said Dr. Mark Boatwright worked with her chemo.
“I took treatments every three weeks,” she said. “It was OK; not great, but OK. I never got horribly sick. It kicked my butt the first week and I was on the couch, but I didn’t experience the vomiting others do.”
After she was finished with chemo, she underwent 33 radiation treatments under Dr. Hejal Patel.
“I had one per day,” she said.
Once treatments were finished, McVay had reconstructive surgery in Dothan, which was performed by Dr. William Owen.
“I couldn’t have been more pleased by the results,” she said.
For McVay, a hairdresser at Head Hunters, she said the most traumatic experience was hair loss.
“I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I am a woman or maybe because I’m a hairdresser,” she said. “I lost my hair in the second week of chemo. I had my co-worker shave my head. I had a wig ordered. Maybe it’s because I felt manly.”
McVay praised her husband, Frankie McVay, for being her hero.
“We just celebrated 25 years of marriage,” she said. “He’s my soul mate and my hero. Of course, God is my No. 1. He was the best.”
McVay said she has a family history of cancer, with several aunts on her father’s side having cancer, and her father currently battling colon cancer.
McVay said that “God was good” throughout her experience, and that she wants to share her experience with others.
“I know God allowed this to happen, so I could be a voice,” she said. “I’m a little more compassionate to people who come into my business. I know what they are going through.”
Leading up to Friday’s Relay for Life event, McVay will participate in her first survivor walk, and she knows she’ll join the ranks of many of Covington County’s blessed.
“I’m just so blessed,” she said. “I am thankful God showed us that spot. We were so blessed to catch it at an early stage.”