Hear Me Roar
October 2022 Issue
Photography by Michelle Holton, Holton Media
Career: Head of the payable/receivables department of TMD/BAM management, which
owns and manages local restaurants.
Family: Husband Scott Mitchell, sons Austin Fair, Tyler Fair, Daniel Mitchell and Bryson Sullivan
Thank you for sharing your breast cancer story with us. When and how did you first discover you had breast cancer?
On a Sunday evening I decided to sit in a different chair than I usually do. I reached over to get something and felt this pain under my arm. I immediately felt to see exactly where the pain was and felt a lump on the right side of my breast. I had never felt this lump or pain while taking showers, working out at the gym, dancing in Zumba class, playing tennis, or anything. My husband checked it out and told me I needed to call the doctor in the morning. I told him that I would just wait to see if it would go away. He didn’t accept that response, and I was at the doctor’s office the next day. The doctor examined me. I could see the concern on his face but didn’t think much of it; he sent me to the hospital for a mammogram.
I was 40 years old, never had a mammogram and didn’t know what to expect. I had always heard women say how uncomfortable it was, so I was already thinking and preparing myself for the worst. I just couldn’t believe I was having to do this, because there is no history of cancer on either side of my family. The mammogram was not as uncomfortable as I thought it would be. When the results came back, it showed I had a mass. I went for a biopsy, not knowing what to expect. This part was not easy, and it was painful. At this point, I was still feeling like I was going through all of this for no reason.
What did it feel like when you heard you had cancer?
The doctor’s office called for me to come in for the biopsy results. My husband and I were sitting in the room. The nurse and doctor came in. The doctor sat down in front of me and said the words no one wants to ever hear, “The biopsy results came back, and I’m sorry, you have cancer.” I just sat there and didn’t say anything. Everyone in the room was silent just looking at me with compassion, waiting to see my response. It finally hit me, and I started crying.
What treatments did you deal with?
Within one week of my diagnosis, my life changed forever! Before I even saw an oncologist to discuss the treatment plan, I had to have some lymph nodes taken out to see if the cancer had spread. I went to my first appointment with the oncologist and was informed that my cancer was aggressive, hormone-fueled and had spread into my lymph nodes. This meant they had to shut my system down immediately. To do this, I would need to get shots in my stomach. My body wouldn’t get to naturally go through menopause; it would be forced into it. Since I had an aggressive cancer, I would have to do a strong chemotherapy and have a mastectomy. I now had decisions to make in an instant. For me, at that point, there was no decision. I wanted to live! I wanted to see my boys grow up; I wanted to see my grandkids one day; I wanted to continue to see my loved ones. Let’s do this! I started chemo, and it made me so sick. When I would start feeling better, it would be time to get another treatment. Each treatment would make me sicker than the one before. One evening my husband had to rush me to the hospital. I was so sick, I knew I was dying, and he could tell. I was at peace and don’t remember anything but waking up in the hospital. I made it through the rest of my treatments, and it was on to my mastectomy.
I chose a double mastectomy because I didn’t want to wake up every morning worried that there might be cancer in the other breast. After a long recovery, I had the reconstructive surgery. (Finding Humor: The first breast cancer shirt I bought said, “Yes these are fake. The real ones tried to kill me.”
The shots I got in my stomach were making me sick, therefore I had to have a complete hysterectomy. I had to have my gallbladder removed and scar tissue that was causing me pain. Today I wear my scars proudly!
What gave you the strength to keep fighting?
I gave all of this to God when it started. He is the reason I am still here. No one can prepare you for what I went through. I had to put my life and my trust in the hands of three doctors, all who were awesome.
How has your cancer battle changed you?
Before cancer I was full of fear. I am now fearless! When you get another chance at life, you tend to look at everything differently. I went through sadness, pain, sickness, surgeries, tests and a near death experience. I am a better person because of it.
What advice do you have for women who are nervous about mammograms?
If you feel anything that causes you concern, get it checked out immediately. If it’s time for you to get a mammogram, and you keep putting it off, just do it! Don’t feel like it can’t happen to you like I did, or think it will probably just go away. Ask yourself, is a little bit of discomfort worth it for peace of mind?
Who is your greatest role model?
I want to thank my mom, Pat Hopper, for always being my rock and my prayer warrior. I want to thank my husband for MAKING me go to the doctor and saving my life and being there with me through the entire experience. He did not leave my side once.
I am roaring about:
I am happy to be alive, healthy and in remission. I have seen my four sons grow into amazing young men! I have a family who loves and supports me. I am now a Glamma to two precious grandchildren, Houston and Marin. These are the things that make life worth fighting for, and now makes me ROAR!