One Fayette County native is celebrating a milestone this month in her breast cancer recovery after a self-examination revealed a tumor seven years ago.
Melinda Majors, 44, of Washington Court House, and mother of three, was diagnosed in 2010 with breast cancer. For her, there was no big reveal of the cancer and she had showed no symptoms. Majors said she simply went to take a shower and felt something was off, so she decided to perform a self-breast examination.
“That was something I had never done before, so I just felt around and felt this knot that was on my right breast,” Majors said during an interview Monday. “I called my friend Peggy Palmer who had just been through breast cancer. She was six months out. She asked me if it hurt and it didn’t. She asked me what it felt like, so I was feeling around and you could actually feel around it. It felt like a small hard ball.”
Following the advice of Palmer, Majors went to her doctor in Sabina for a medical examination. At first glance her doctor was not immediately concerned, but suggested they go ahead with a mammogram. Majors traveled to Wilmington for the procedure and before she could even get redressed, the physician told her they needed to conduct an additional test through an ultrasound machine. Before long she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma triple negative, a more aggressive and difficult-to-treat breast cancer.
“The first thing that when through my head was my kids,” Majors said. “I ended up calling my ex-husband and he told me everything was going to be fine. But I was still worried, I continued to say, ‘The kids, the kids.’ Of course I cried like a baby. I had Kody and Allysa home and I called Dustin at work. I didn’t want to tell him over the phone, but he was insisting so I told him I have breast cancer and he came home too. We talked and cried, then they left. I knew they each had to deal with it in their own way. Kody and Dustin went skateboarding, Allysa went to see her friends, it was their way of dealing with it. They needed someone they can talk to and express how they felt.
“I felt the knot in April and by the end of April I was out of work, and they performed a lumpectomy,” Majors said. “They called me back when the pathology report came in showing that the cancer had spread to the margins. They wanted to go back in and take out more. They took everything from my 10 O’clock to my 12 O’clock.” (For a lumpectomy, Majors said they look at the breast from the front and section it off like hours of a clock.)
The next step in treatment was chemotherapy, and Majors said her doctor had ordered one round of chemo every three weeks. Using the drugs Taxotere and Cytoxan, Majors underwent 12 weeks of treatments before they ordered her into radiation. She would travel to her doctor every day, except Saturdays and Sundays, for six more weeks.
“The radiation burnt me of course and I had to have salve and stuff like that because it is like a really bad sunburn,” Majors said. “One of the things they talked to me about was a mastectomy and that was something I did not want to do. That was a worry for me, that I was going to lose my breast. They were also afraid of it spreading and asked if I had a hysterectomy, which I did. Every day was a struggle. Every day I would wake up and think, ‘Is today the day?’ It was so bad for awhile there, I found another knot in my left breast and was certain it was more cancer. Thankfully the medical team I was with looked at it, and removed what was a cyst after all.”
Since then, Majors has been cancer free, marking seven full years as a survivor this past Sunday. She said she returns to her doctor every three months, but is now only required to come back every six months. She said that if she decided to stop in though, her doctor takes her right back and helps to ease Majors’s mind. Despite being glad for all of the years as a survivor, Majors still has the worry of recurring breast cancer (as most survivors do), but in her case she has a higher chance of recurrence due to the specific cancer cells that were in her body.
“People need to be checked,” Majors said. “That is my thing, you have to stay focused, you have to stay positive and you have got to get regular check-ups. If you think your life is bad just look and see that there are ones who have it worse. I always said though that if God has to give cancer or disease to someone, give it to me instead of a little kid. Leave those babies alone. I have had going on 45 years of this life, let them have 45 years, give them a chance to live and survive and enjoy. I love my grandbaby, but all of my kids are grown and I know that if I did pass, I would be in heaven looking down on all of them and that they are able to take care of themselves.”
For more information on breast cancer check www.breastcancer.org.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy