Wanda's Cancer Journey
“When I found out I had breast cancer, it made me realize how much I have to live for. I have my husband, my kids, my four grandchildern, two great-grandkids and one on the way.”
Wanda, a 70-year-old breast cancer survivor, comes from a long line of fighters, of go-getters and of hard workers. So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in early 2013, she knew that she had to fight in the battle against cancer.
Wanda went to Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at TriStar Summit Medical Center in Hermitage, Tenn. for a routine mammogram in the fall of 2012. The radiologist discovered an area in her left breast that was recommended for close follow-up. When she returned in three months to have the area checked again, the area had doubled in size.
She was quickly brought in for a biopsy to determine if the area was indeed cancer. “I was terrified. I’m afraid of needles. But that is where I met Brenda, my nurse navigator who specializes in breast health. She met with me that day and reassured me. She made me not be afraid,” Wanda said.
Wanda’s biopsy confirmed her suspicions; she did have early stage breast cancer. Wanda had ductal carcinoma which in simple terms, means the cancer was contained to her milk ducts. “The word cancer almost knocked me off my feet. My father had cancer four times and I remember the suffering he went through. He fought against his cancer for 14 years before he finally passed away. I knew I had to beat this,” she said.
“Brenda, my nurse navigator that specialized in breast health, told me that she was a cancer survivor too. That gave my such confidence.”
Fortunately, her cancer was non-invasive and her physician, Dr. Michael Thomas, a surgeon at TriStar Summit Medical Center, recommended that Wanda undergo surgery to remove the cancer. Wanda’s relationship with Dr. Michael Thomas was special because she has two sons- Michael and Thomas- “I thought we were a good match,” Wanda said.
Immediately after the surgery, Dr. Thomas told Wanda that he was 99 percent sure that he removed all of the cancer; final pathology available the next day confirmed this. “Dr. Thomas called my house the next day and said ‘Guess what? NO MORE CANCER.’ They were the greatest words that could have been said.”
Wanda is now in remission and has been cancer free for nearly two years. She diligently returns to Sarah Cannon at TriStar Summit Medical Center every six months for her checkups and takes pills prescribed by her doctor each day to prevent the cancer from coming back.
“Life is different now that I am a survivor. I feel like I was awarded a new lease on life- I appreciate each day.”
Wanda hopes that she will stay in remission and knows that for the rest of her life she will need to go in for check-ups regularly. She’s thankful that her breast health nurse navigator and now dear friend, Brenda, is there for her.
When asked if she had any advice to give someone newly-diagnosed with cancer, Wanda said “Live the best life that you can live, do everything the doctor says and try not to let the cancer change you.”
“My husband never left my side when I had cancer. He took all of his vacation days and stayed with me. It really makes a difference when someone is always there. We’ve been together for 53 years and the more we are together- the more fun we have. It’s special.”
Photographers: David Sosnow and Susan Adcock
Have cancer questions? Call askSARAH and speak to a nurse available 24/7.