This story was written by Tracey Kennedy, breast cancer survivor and friend to South Georgia Radiology Associates.
As a registered Mammographer, I have seen many women’s lives saved thanks to early detection. I just never knew how important it would be in my own family. In 2002 my maternal Grandmother, at age 68, had an abnormal mammogram and was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. The thought then crossed my mind that my chances increased, but I was 27 and expecting my first child so that thought quickly left my mind. In 2012, my mother, age 60, also had an abnormal mammogram and was diagnosed with Stage 1 invasive ductal carcinoma. Upon hearing this news my next thought was when will it happen to me? I tried to put the thought out of my head because I was only 37. Both my Grandmother and Mother were in their 60’s when they were diagnosed, so if it happened it would be years from now. When it came time for my yearly physical I knew it had been two years since I had my first mammogram at the age of 36. With my strong family history of breast cancer I decided to have another mammogram and not wait until I was 40. I had it on July 23, 2013. I work at Meadows Diagnostic Center of Dublin; so I chose to have my mammogram there. When Dr. Gary Dent MD, Radiologist with SGRA, read it two days later he stepped around to my office to tell me I needed more images. He saw a few small calcifications that needed to be looked at closer. I wasn’t really concerned. It wasn’t until I had the additional images and he recommended a biopsy that the fear started trying to creep in. I stepped into my office closed the door and prayed. I did not know what the days ahead would hold, but I knew God would be right there with me. I felt such a peace that only could come from God. Within an hour I had my biopsy scheduled for July 29th at Meadows Regional Medical Center in Vidalia, Ga. Dr. Janica Peavey MD, Radiologist with SGRA, preformed the biopsy. The mammogram machine was used during the biopsy along with the biopsy tool. The program targets the area of interest. I was a little nervous about the procedure, but there was little pain. The procedure went well. The hardest part was waiting for the results! I thought I was a patient person, but I found out I am not! Finally, on Friday August 2, 2013 I was called into the radiologist’s office and was told by Dr. Janica Peavey, that I had breast cancer in 3 different milk ducts. She couldn’t tell me if it was invasive or in my lymph nodes. It took a few minutes to sink in and then it hit me. I had breast cancer. I walked out of her office and into mine and started praying. That’s all I knew to do. How could I have breast cancer? I was only 38 years old. I have two kids, a husband and my whole life ahead of me! I was scheduled for an MRI at Meadows Regional before I left the office that day to see if there were any other areas to be concerned with. My MRI showed one area that was questionable in the same breast. With all of the results back, the next step was to see a surgeon. I knew I had a couple of options. I could take the route my Grandmother and Mother did. I could have a lumpectomy, radiation, and take a chemo pill for 5-10 years, or I could have a bilateral mastectomy. I had decided many years ago when I became a registered Mammographer that if I was ever diagnosed with breast cancer I would have a mastectomy. Therefore, I really didn’t have to think about it too hard. I was told being the third generation in my family to have breast cancer and to be over 20 years younger than my Grandmother and Mother; I had at least a 50% chance it would return. It was not a risk I was willing to take. I may not be so fortunate to find it early next time. When I went to see the surgeon he first suggested the lumpectomy, but I just started shaking my head. He said ok, what are you thinking? I told him I would prefer a mastectomy with breast reconstruction. Just like that, he said ok and asked who I wanted to use for a plastic surgeon. I never one time thought twice about my decision. Everything had happened pretty fast up to this point. The surgery had to be coordinated between the breast surgeon and plastic surgeon, so it took 6 weeks from the time I saw the surgeon until the day of my surgery. It was the longest wait in my life!! I am so thankful for prayer and the words of encouragement people would give me because that is what got me through. Surgery day came September 18, 2013 and I was so ready to have it behind me. When I woke up from surgery I was told it was not in my lymph nodes! Praise the Lord! I could finally breathe and start the healing process. It was a very tough surgery. My reconstruction process was started at the time of my mastectomy and that was the most painful part. It was a process of stretching my skin and muscle by injecting saline into the expanders to form my new breast. It was done over a 6 week period and then the expanders stayed in for three months to give my body time to stretch. During this time I went back for my follow up with the breast surgeon to get my final pathology report from the breast tissue he removed during my mastectomy. There was some abnormal tissue and calcifications, but no other cancer. I also saw an Oncologist who told me I made the right decision to have a mastectomy. By having it, I would need no further treatment. I was Cancer Free!!! I had one more surgery on February 11, 2014 to replace the expanders with silicone implants. My reconstruction process was complete. I endured a lot of pain, but I would do it all over again. I have no regrets. I never asked God why. I knew he had a purpose for what I endured. It made me a stronger person and increased my faith. It also showed me I need to be an encourager to others. My journey with Breast Cancer has opened so many doors for me to help many women who are facing the same diagnosis. I was always a big supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness, but once your life has been touched by it, as mine has, it gives you a different perspective. I know having a mammogram saved my life and that early detection is your best protection. I urge all women of any age to do monthly self breast checks and have annual screening mammograms. It may just save your life. It saved the life of my Grandmother, my Mother, and me!!
Pictured:Breast Cancer Survivors: Tracey Kennedy, Betty Spradley (grandmother) , and Thelda Welch (mom)