‘You don’t have to fight alone’

County women share their ex­pe­ri­ences with breast can­cer



— Every year, 70 women in Ce­cil County are di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer.

The women di­ag­nosed are dif­fer­ent ages and at many dif­fer­ent stages of their lives. Some will beat the dis­ease and go into remis-


sion, while oth­ers will battle breast can­cer more than once.

In honor of Oc­to­ber be­ing Breast Can­cer Aware­ness Month, the Whig spoke to three county women about their ex­pe­ri­ences with the dis­ease. Carol Leath Carol Leath, 61, a Per­ryville Mid­dle School sci­ence teacher, was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer in her right breast on the first day of school this past Au­gust.

“It was re­ally scary,” Leath said. “It was al­most sur­real be­cause they called me here at school on my plan­ning pe­riod.”

Her can­cer was de­tected early by her an­nual mam­mo­gram, which she has been do­ing for about 20 years. Leath said both of her grand­moth­ers were di­ag­nosed with the can­cer, but her mother was not.

Leath un­der­went two lumpec­tomies at Chris­tiana Hos­pi­tal, the first on Sept. 8 and a se­cond surgery on Sept. 26 to re­move the rest of the lump. Dur­ing one of the surg­eries, a lymph node was re­moved to make sure the can­cer did not spread to the node. Thank­fully, it hasn’t, she said.

Leath has had sup­port from many dif­fer­ent peo­ple in­clud­ing fam­ily, friends, co­work­ers and her church.

“When I was di­ag­nosed, the first thing I thought was ‘ God, please help me get through this,’” she re­called.

Mem­bers of North East United Methodist Church, where she be­longs, of­fered her prayers and friends asked what they could do to help, Leath said.

Leath will start her ra­di­a­tion treat­ment on Oct. 24, Mon­day through Fri­day at the He­len Gra­ham Can­cer Cen­ter. Once that treat­ment is com­pleted, she will take Arim­idex, a hor­mone blocker, for five years, she said.

“I’m ner­vous about what the ra­di­a­tion treat­ments are go­ing to do to me phys­i­cally,” Leath said.

Leath is also con­cerned about the can­cer com­ing back and if she will pass it onto her daugh­ter Elkton res­i­dent An­nMarie McClure is go­ing through her se­cond round of chemo­ther­apy af­ter her se­cond di­ag­no­sis of breast can­cer in mid-May.

and grand­chil­dren.

An­nMarie McClure Elkton res­i­dent An­nMarie McClure, 46, has been di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer twice. First in 2009 and then, most re­cently in mid-May.

In 2009, McClure found a lump in her breast, which caused pain. She went to her gy­ne­col­o­gist, as well as to other doc­tors, who said it was caused by a blocked milk duc­tile. A biopsy showed she had breast can­cer in her left breast, she said.

“I was in shock be­cause I was the one and only fe­male in my fam­ily to ever have breast can­cer,” McClure said.

McClure un­der­went a mas­tec­tomy and a re­con­struc­tive surgery at Chris­tiana Hos­pi­tal and had 12 chemo­ther­apy treat­ments, which took place at Re­gional He­ma­tol­ogy and On­col­ogy in Elkton, McClure said.

Then in May, McClure was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer again. McClure was di­ag­nosed with in­va­sive duc­tal car­ci­noma, a type of breast can­cer that be­gins growing in the duct and spreads to the fatty tis­sue of the breast out­side the duct. She said the can­cer was found in the lymph nodes in her left armpit.

“It didn’t come back in the breast it­self, it came back in the lymph nodes in my armpit,” McClure said. “It’s the same cells that I had in my breast the first time, that just kind of lay dor­mant and moved and they chose to come back in my lymph nodes on the same side.”

McClure is in the process of go­ing through 16 rounds of chemo­ther­apy at Re­gional He­ma­tol­ogy and On­col­ogy. She will go for her fourth round on Tues­day. The first four treat­ments were every other week due to the in­ten­sity of the chemo­ther­apy while the last 12 rounds are every other week un­til April, de­pend­ing on how her treat­ments go.

“I just don’t think there’s one word,” McClure said of her se­cond di­ag­no­sis. “Anger. It’s just un­re­al­is­tic to have can­cer once in your life­time with no ex­pla­na­tion and then to get it again.”

But she said peo­ple go­ing through can­cer should not feel as if they are go­ing through it alone.

“No one with can­cer is ever alone and they should never feel alone,” McClure said. “You don’t have to fight alone be­cause there are a lot of us (can­cer pa­tients).”

Sal­lie Teague Former Ris­ing Sun mayor Sal­lie Teague, 80, was di­ag­nosed with breast can­cer in her right breast in 2002, af­ter she felt a lump, she said.

Teague con­tacted a lo­cal sur­geon, who ad­vised her to have a mam­mo­gram per­formed. The same sur­geon then per­formed a lumpec­tomy at Union Hos­pi­tal, af­ter she was di­ag­nosed.

“It’s kinda scary,” Teague said of find­ing out about her di­ag­no­sis. “And of course, there wasn’t as much back then and today it’s re­ally, re­ally very scary,” she noted.

Teague un­der­went 35 ra­di­a­tion treat­ments for about 20 min­utes per ses­sion, Mon­day through Fri­day, at Union Hos­pi­tal, Teague said. Teague said she felt no ad­verse ef­fects from the ther­apy, ex­cept tired­ness.

Teague said she drove her­self to her doc­tor’s ap­point­ments.

“I was re­ally kind of in­de­pen­dent,” she said.

Af­ter her treat­ments were com­pleted, Teague went for two mam­mo­grams a year for 10 years, but now goes for yearly mam­mo­grams. Teague was also pre­scribed ta­mox­ifen, which is used to pre­vent breast can­cer in women and help treat the can­cer, for 10 years, but no longer has to take it.

Teague cred­its her faith for help­ing for get through her di­ag­no­sis and treat­ments.

Teague’s church, Moore’s Chapel, prayed for her dur­ing Sun­day Ser­vices dur­ing her ini­tial di­ag­no­sis. She also at­tended church more and prayed more of­ten. Teague also re­ceived sup­port from her two daugh­ters, who par­tic­i­pated in Re­lay for Life. Her hus­band had passed away from leukemia in 1992.

“I feel very for­tu­nate and then for­tu­nately, God is good all the time,” Teague said. “To me, I don’t know how peo­ple han­dle cri­sis if they don’t have faith or re­li­gious back­ground.” The im­por­tance of

mam­mo­grams The best way to catch breast can­cer early is through an­nual mam­mo­grams.

Shee­lagh Ste­wart, man­ager of the Breast Can­cer Cen­ter at Union Hos­pi­tal, said women should be­gin an­nual mam­mo­grams at the age of 40, un­less a woman is high- risk. Those who are high- risk have had the can­cer be­fore or have an im­me­di­ate fam­ily who was been di­ag­nosed, such as a mother.

The hos­pi­tal’s breast can­cer cen­ter of­fers ra­di­a­tion and chemo­ther­apy, as well lumpec­tomies, mas­tec­tomies and other ser vices, said Nancy Bil­lion, a reg­is­tered nurse at the hos­pi­tal’s can­cer cen­ter. Re­search shows that most women ben­e­fit more from a lumpec­tomy com­pared to a mas­tec­tomy and both have a sim­i­lar sur vi­val rate, she said.

Over the years, there have been many im­prove­ments in breast can­cer treat­ment, par­tic­u­larly with treat­ment be­com­ing more in­di­vid­u­al­ized, Bil­lon said.

Pa­tients re­ceive dif­fer­ent types of treat­ment based on the type of breast can­cer and other fac­tors, Bil­lon said. In the past, pa­tients would usu­ally have a mas­tec­tomy and high- dose ra­di­a­tion, but that is not the case today be­cause it is based on the pa­tient’s case and what is the best treat­ment plan for the pa­tient, she said.

Ste­wart noted that women who are di­ag­nosed early tend to have a lumpec­tomy with some ra­di­a­tion, rather than those who are di­ag­nosed later and usu­ally must un­dergo treat­ments such as a mas­tec­tomy, ra­di­a­tion or chemo­ther­apy.

“We have peo­ple who come in every year and are good about it and when they come in and it is a breast can­cer, it is a much eas­ier path for them, usu­ally be­cause we’re look­ing at an early de­tec­tion,” Ste­wart said.


Ris­ing Sun res­i­dent and breast can­cer sur­vivor Sal­lie Teague stands in front of a Breast Can­cer Aware­ness ban­ner at Ris­ing Sun Town Hall.


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