Fight­ing and sur­viv­ing

Lo­cal Stephe­nie Cole­man fights against breast can­cer for her fam­ily

The Covington News - - Front page - AM­BER PITTMAN apittman@cov­news.com

Stephe­nie Cole­man was only go­ing in for her first mam­mo­gram when she learned some­thing that would for­ever change her life, some­thing that would make her rise up and fight for her life.

When Cole­man, 41, went to the doc­tor, she was told that she might have to have more im­ages and an ul­tra­sound taken since it was her first mam­mo­gram. So when doc­tors called back and told her they needed her to come in, she wasn’t wor­ried. It was when she went into the ul­tra­sound room and saw the im­ages of her right breast up, she im­me­di­ately knew some­thing was wrong. She was back be­cause of the big white spot in her right breast.

“I knew right then and

See Cole­man, 5A

there,” she said. “They did a biopsy next, but at that point, I had made up my mind that it was can­cer.”

But still, she didn’t worry too much. The mother of 3-year-old Parker and step­mother to 18-year-old Camp had too much on her plate. She was plan­ning for Christ­mas, spend­ing time with her fam­ily and hus­band of 13 years, Rus­sell. It was when the phone rang while she was at work at the New­ton County Su­pe­rior Clerk’s Of­fice that things re­ally sunk in.

“When they called me and told me I needed to come in and talk, I broke down. It re­ally hit me then that maybe this was some­thing big­ger than me... But, I had a 3-year-old son and I had to fight. He was a big part of it be­cause he came later in life... He came when he was sup­posed to come and I looked at it as God [send­ing] him later and I wasn’t go­ing to be taken away from him yet.”

Born and raised in Cov­ing­ton, Cole­man had plenty of peo­ple voic­ing their opin­ions as to what she should do; ul­ti­mately, she made her own de­ci­sion and told the doc­tor she wanted a dou­ble mastectomy. Part of her de­ci­sion had to do with the pain in her back caused by what she calls be­ing “heavy-chested.”

“It’s not the way you want to have that done, but it’s there,” she said of her de­ci­sion. “I didn’t need them, that didn’t bother me. I wasn’t par­tial to them and I didn’t think they made me. I didn’t need them so they could take them.”

Things moved quickly from that point. The can­cer was de­tected around Dec. 16 and on Jan. 20, Cole­man went in for her surgery.

Sur­pris­ingly, Cole­man was more scared of be­ing put to sleep for surgery than any­thing else.

“I kept think­ing, I don’t know if I can do this,” she said. “I did worry, but I fig­ured that some­body else had it and it was out of my hands.”

But, like with ev­ery­thing else be­ing thrown at her, Cole­man wasn’t about to back down from fear. In the back of her mind was her fam­ily, and her beloved son Parker.

Af­ter­ward, as she healed, Parker would come in and pet her on the arm, telling her, “Mama, I’ll make you feel bet­ter.” He knew only that she had “boo-boos,” and was help­ful throughout.

Cole­man went through four chemo­ther­apy treat­ments spaced three weeks apart. Each lasted about three hours. Though they were drain­ing, she said the real heroes were the other pa­tients there.

“I wasn’t go­ing through any­thing com­pared to them. Mine was a bump in the road and it’s over and done. They are up there re­ally fight­ing. It’s an in­spi­ra­tion to go up there and sit with them.”

And al­though she has not been de­clared can­cer-free just yet, Cole­man con­tin­ues on with her life. She de­cid- ed to have breast im­plants fol­low­ing her surgery and on May 31, the woman who was once scared to be put to sleep, went un­der once again to show can­cer that it may have knocked her down, but she was in charge of her own life.

Tear­ing up, Cole­man said that when Parker is old enough, she hopes that he will learn what she went through and from that les­son, that his fam­ily, no mat­ter what they are faced with, will stay strong.

“I was go­ing to come out one way or the other. I was go­ing to fight it and I was go­ing to take it on with the best of my abil­ity. I was go­ing to fight for my fam­ily. I want Parker to know that. That he comes from me and he’s just as strong and that our fam­ily are to­gether, and no mat­ter what we face, we al­ways will be.”

Danielle Ever­son /The Cov­ing­ton News

Gal­loway dis­cov­ered she had breast can­cer in 2003 and de­cided af­ter to raise aware­ness about the dis­ease.

Am­ber Pittman /The Cov­ing­ton News

Cole­man’s breast can­cer was de­tected around Dec.16 and on Jan. 20, she went in for her surgery.

Am­ber Pittman /The Cov­ing­ton News

Cole­man’s co­work­ers made breast can­cer shirts to sup­port her.

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