Not just a survivor — a ‘thriver’

Dianna Hawes shares her experiences with breast cancer

The Record-Herald

Local breast cancer thriver and 2018 Girls Night Out honoree Dianna Hawes.

Local breast cancer thriver and 2018 Girls Night Out honoree Dianna Hawes.

Courtesy photo

“Girls Night Out” is an annual breast cancer education event for women hosted by Fayette County Memorial Hospital (FCMH) and Tanger Outlets Jeffersonville, and recently a previous honoree and “breast cancer thriver,” Dianna Hawes, shared her story.

Although a local breast cancer fighter or survivor is honored each year, this year the event was unable to occur due to the pandemic. Dianna was honored in 2018. All attendees that year released pink balloons to lift Dianna up in her journey.

Dianna’s story was shared with the R-H from FCMH as a testimony to the impact Girls Night Out has on its honorees and the relationships and support groups that are built out of the event.

In addition to the impacts the event has on the honorees and relationships between participants, it includes breast cancer education. Participants in the Girls Night Out can visit displays from local businesses and get health education information from FCMH and FCMH partners.

Dianna’s story:

My name is Dianna Hawes, and I am a breast cancer thriver.

There’s a lot of discussion around being called survivors versus thrivers. I personally prefer the latter. Why? Because cancer has not defined me… because cancer is lowercase in my life… because cancer was a valley to be crossed and not a mountain range to be abandoned.

But how do I use this aggressive adjective so confidently? Because of the broad support of both friends, family and strangers.

You see, I had made a big decision the day before the 2018 Girls Night Out Breast Cancer event. A decision that was met with great opposition from my husband and close friends.

I had decided that after three chemo treatments, I was done.

“It was too much,” I said.

I knew God was present in the deepest part of the valleys, but I felt weak and defeated.

In May of 2018, I had my annual mammogram. Having hardly ever gone to a doctor for any reason, I was stopped in my tracks when I was told I needed to return for further testing. Next was the biopsy, and at last, the diagnosis. Triple positive breast cancer — rare and aggressive.

A very small tumor probably not in lymph nodes, along my chest wall and couldn’t be felt.

Choices had to be made. Lumpectomy or mastectomy? Keep surgeon or get another opinion? Genetic testing or take a big guess?

After genetic testing showed only one possible issue and three “second” opinions, a lumpectomy it was. I was told I probably would just need radiation afterwards.

But when my best friend greeted me as I awoke from surgery, I knew things had changed. There were cancer cells in my lymph nodes — the game changer.

Four types of chemotherapy every three weeks, then six weeks of radiation. So again, another very important choice — whether or not to put on my big girl panties and do what needed to be done, or to crawl into the nearest hole and deny the inevitable.

I guess, in hindsight, there wasn’t much of a choice. My family and friends seemed to take that away from me, and the treatment began late summer.

I continued to work off and on throughout it all, and I found this to be a source of strength of sorts. My co-workers were amazing in their support.

Sometimes it appeared those around me were fighting harder than I was for myself. Chemo places you in a very “wonky” place.

People would ask how I was feeling. The only word that made sense was “wonky.” During the lowest days and nights, I could do nothing but whisper the name of Jesus. But this was enough. His presence was overwhelming, and I pursued the goal.

But after the third treatment and “stuff” going on in the family, I lost my steam… my will. But I had been given the incredible opportunity to be honored at the Girls Night Out event. So I put my big girl panties back on and went. Little did I know, it was a God appointment that He scheduled and planned.

During the event, one stranger after another approached me. Most were thrivers, some of 2 years and others as much as 32 years.

They were not only encouraging me to thrive, they were also offering to drive me to treatments, to provide my family with meals, to share hats with me and more. Strangers yesterday, sister thrivers that day.

You see, I had to keep going. I had to do it for me, for them, for those who would follow me. I had to do more than survive. I HAD TO THRIVE and live life abundantly.

That event was the real game changer, and I will always be grateful for those who chose me to be honored.

Dianna was not the first nor will she be the last to be diagnosed with breast cancer in Fayette County. Breast cancer is the second most prevalent type of cancer seen in Fayette County. Nationwide, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.

Likewise, it is the second most prevalent type of cancer that is being treated at the FCMH Cancer Care Clinic even though the clinic has only been open about a year.

The clinic is in collaboration with Adena Health System and Dr. Shylaja Mani, and is now able to provide chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hormone therapy. Residents no longer have to leave the county to receive these vital treatments.

Early detection through regular mammograms is key to fighting breast cancer. The National Breast Cancer Foundation reports that 64 percent of cases are diagnosed at a localized stage – meaning there is no sign that cancer has spread outside the breast. When this early diagnosis is made, the five-year survival rate is 99 percent.

In conjunction with the FCMH Women’s Wellness Center providers Emily Stephens, CNP and Dr. Loliya Idoniboye and the FCMH radiologist Dr. Michael Barrows, the FCMH team is here to support patients from diagnosis through treatment.

Local breast cancer thriver and 2018 Girls Night Out honoree Dianna Hawes. breast cancer thriver and 2018 Girls Night Out honoree Dianna Hawes. Courtesy photo
Dianna Hawes shares her experiences with breast cancer

The Record-Herald