Cancer Freeze recipient: ‘keeping my faith in God, support is what kept me moving forward’
Florala native Catherine Mitchell is one of this year’s Cancer Freeze recipients.
She currently resides in Brantley, Ala, with her husband Casey.
She has one son, a beautiful daughter-in-love, and six amazing grandkids.
“My story started a long time ago when my siblings and I watched my mother battle with breast cancer,” Mitchell said. “I wish I could say she won but I can’t. We have always wondered if it would get us too. So my sisters and I always made sure to get our screenings done. We thought if it gets us we could hopefully catch it early so maybe we would have a fighting chance.”
Life was just getting back to normal for Mitchell after a scare with her thyroid in September 2018.
“I had a lump in my neck that I did not even know was there,” Mitchell said. “My sister happened to notice it while we were video chatting via face time. I made an appointment the next day and the doctor ordered an ultrasound of my thyroid. They found a three-centimeter nodule on my right lobe and having a biopsy was the next step. The biopsy concluded it was benign but my surgeon wanted to remove it due to the size. I had a partial thyroidectomy on September 6th, 2018. The final path report was that it was a benign Hurthle cell mass with cell change. Just those words cell change scared me but it was removed in time and besides the 12 staples in my neck I was okay and all that was left to do was to thank the good Lord above, heal and get back to life.”
Fast forward to June 2019, Summer had just begun and Mitchell was getting all my yearly appointments out of the way so they could just enjoy the summer.
“It was time for my yearly mammogram on June 11,” Mitchell said. “What was supposed to be a quick trip turned into everything but I knew something was off when they said they needed to do more images and then do an ultrasound. I have had several mammograms done in the past years and I knew this was not normal. Finally, after what seemed like hours I was able to go home. The day after I got a call from my doctor telling me that there was a suspicious spot on my right breast and I needed a biopsy. I was referred to a surgeon who recommended I have a lumpectomy. By this time my husband had went to work so I had to call him to tell him about the surgery. I was glad he was able to fly back home just in time for the surgery.”
Mitchell had her first surgery on June 21.
“Now we wait for the results,” Mitchell said. “The waiting is the worst. During this time my husband had to go back to work so when it was time for my post-op appointment my two sisters, my mother in law and my best friend went with me. That was the day I found out that I had breast cancer. The surgeon informed me that the spot detected on the mammogram had actually come back benign but while in surgery he felt a second spot very close to the first one and decided he would remove it too. That second spot was the cancer. I believe it was only by the grace of God he found the second spot, which most likely saved my life. The only good news my surgeon could give me was that we caught it early.”
Her diagnosis was invasive ductal carcinoma.
“Since it was invasive I needed a second surgery to make sure the margins were clear and to test the nodes,” Mitchell said. “It was not easy telling my husband over the phone that I had breast cancer and a second surgery was in the immediate future. He got on the next flight he could and came home. I think the hardest part was telling the people I love and that love me that I had cancer. I could see how bad it hurt them. I wanted to make it okay for them. I was determined that no matter what I was faced with that I would do it because I had a lot of reasons to fight. I am a wife, mother, Mimi to 6 wonderful grandkids, sister, aunt, daughter in law and friend.”
Mitchell’s second surgery was a partial mastectomy with a node removal on July 1.
“That surgery was a little more involved than the first,” Mitchell said. “This time a pathologist was in surgery with me and was testing tissue as they went. One node was removed and several were tested. The final path report was no node involvement and they were able to get clear margins. The next step was to see my oncologist. The first visit was July 29th. This was the first time I was referred to as a cancer patient. I remember thinking is this even real? My oncologist went over every detail with me and it was a lot of information to take in at one time. The receptors were positive for Estrogen and Progesterone and HER2 Negative, my onco scoring (recurrence score) was a 15. Since my score was low Chemo was not an option as it was less than 1 percent that it would benefit me.”
The next step for Mitchel was radiation. She had 33 treatments everyday, Monday through Friday for six weeks.
“I started my treatments on August 14,” Mitchell said. “I had a couple of set backs with the treatments and had to take a couple of breaks but I was able to finish on October 10.”
Hormone therapy and another surgery was the next step for Mitchell.
“Because my tumor was hormone positive I will have to have a hysterectomy (ovaries removed) along with taking a hormone blocker for 5 years,” Mitchell said. “It has been a long journey so far but keeping my faith in God and the amazing support shown to me from my family and friends is what kept me moving forward. My niece sent me a text at the very beginning that said ‘God planned your healing before you knew your situation,’ Those words have stayed with me. God is good I couldn’t imagine having to walk this path without him.”
Cancer Freeze is scheduled for February 1, at Lake Jackson in Florida.