Survivor Stories 2014:
1. How did you first find out you had cancer?
During my monthly breast self exam, I found a lump, went to my gynecologist, who sent me right then for a mammogram, cautioning me that I should see a surgeon regardless of the results. Although the mammogram was negative, he emphasized again that I should see a surgeon. In the morning, the surgeon felt he was 88% sure it was benign, but sent me down for a Fine Needle Aspiration. That afternoon the surgeon said that the preliminary results of the FNA indicated a malignancy, which was confirmed later that week.
2. How did you react when you heard the news?
I turned to friends. My sister-in-law was diagnosed in 1980 at the age of 35, and came to Houston from Oklahoma for treatment. She stayed with us so I had first hand experience of what I might be facing. So my reaction was one of surprise, since I had no known risk factors for breast cancer and dread at what I might be facing.
3. What course of treatment were you prescribed?
Things were different in 1989. I had surgery first. Removing the 2cm tumor required a segmental mastectomy, taking a pie-shaped wedge of approximately ¼ to 1/3 of my breast to get clear margins. Since the tumor was the most aggressive invasive ductal carcinoma, which, combined with the DNA replication and being premenopausal, indicated the recommendation of chemotherapy. 10 months of chemo- FAC -5-fluorouracil (5FU), doxorubicin (Adriamycin, A), and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan, C), then a clinical trial of Methotrexate Vinblastine. Following chemo, plastic surgery was needed to repair the deformed and painful breast, as well as restoring symmetry to my breasts. Finally, I had six weeks of radiation therapy.
4. What most surprised you about your treatment?
When the final pathology results came back, and I had no lymph node involvement, I was shocked to learn that it was recommended that I have chemotherapy, which included standard of care at that time and a clinical trial.
5. What would your advice be to anyone who’s just received a cancer diagnosis?
Seek the support of others who have been through this journey – it is a sisterhood that no one wants to join, but that bonds you with wonderful friendships. Try to keep as normal a life as possible, but listen to your body and rest when needed.
6. How long have you been cancer free?
7. What lessons did you learn from the experience?
You will find strength that you never imagined you possessed. One finds a tremendous determination to support others through the journey and to do whatever possible to fund research to find the answers.
8. If you could send one message to all the Good Enough Mothers out there – what would it be?
I have told others that I got through my journey with the help of the four “f’s” Faith, Family, Friends and (Ph)ysicians. OK the last one is phonetic.
“I can be changed by what happens to me, but refuse to be reduced by it.’ — Maya Angelou
In November of 1989, Anne was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma. She completed surgery, chemotherapy, (FAC and a clinical trial with methotrexate & vinblastine,) reconstruction, and radiation. Realizing the importance and strength of sharing and knowledge, several survivors, herself included, helped found and organize of a breast cancer support group, The Rosebuds, which is affiliated with The Rose in Houston. As an original member of Susan G. Komen Houston Affiliate, she have served on and chaired the Survivor Committee for the Race numerous times. she regularly attend the Breast Health Summit in Houston and is a member of the Breast Health Collaborative of Texas. Since Anne’s retirement from the Houston Independent School District, she have become more involved with several patient advocacy research programs.
She is inspired by her fellow survivors and the amazing patient advocates with whom she works. There has never been a time in her life when she did not value research, having been surrounded by scientists, both her parents and her husband. Intellectual curiosity and the constant quest for medical cures continue to encourage her. We are all still on that quest.