Fluke find saves woman’s life

Staff report

Dana Wright and her husband on her wedding day after surviving breast cancer.

Dana Wright and her husband on her wedding day after surviving breast cancer.

CHILLICOTHE — October is a time to enjoy fallen leaves of multiple colors crunching beneath your feet. A time to get out those fall clothes and enjoy cool weather made for football games, end of the season camping trips and pumpkin everything. It’s a time for ghost telling, haunted houses and trick or treat.

There is so much to enjoy about October, yet for some, it’s a reminder of a journey, a journey that is become all too common. The following is a story shared by Dana Wright, Air Force Veteran and Chillicothe VA employee. Her story is something that has changed how she sees October forever, a month dedicated to Breast Cancer Awareness.

“I was diagnosed with breast cancer in October of 2015. Finding it was a fluke, I found a lump in the spring of that year and got it checked out. It was a fluid-filled cyst, nothing of concern. To be safe, the doctor wanted a repeat ultrasound six months later. The repeat exam found a new lump, different spot, not related, and not the benign fluid filled cyst we all saw earlier in the year. I almost canceled that follow up appointment, the fluid filled cyst was gone and no longer a concern, so I thought.

After the realization of a new lump, time flew as I went through the process of confirming my diagnosis. Ultrasound. Repeat ultrasound. MRI. Biopsy. It was a blur until the evening of October 8, 2015, when I spoke with my doctor, a surgeon who specializes in breast care. I was standing outside for privacy during the phone call while listening to the results of all those tests. I heard “Something, something, something… invasive lobular carcinoma… something, something. My nurse will call you tomorrow.”

Two days later I sat in my doctor’s office, still in shock and with my equally stunned boyfriend at my side. I was so naïve, I thought if you get cancer, they treat it and that is that. It’s not nearly that simple. There’s genetic testing to be done, I was adopted and don’t know my family history. Then the decision to have a lumpectomy, mastectomy or double mastectomy. I decided to wait on genetic testing before I made my decision hoping the results would help guide me to the most informed decision. In the end, I opted for a lumpectomy.

My hat is off to all the ladies who go the mastectomy route, that process seemed terrifying with all the additional surgeries and no guarantee. I’m not that brave. In December, I got the lump removed along with lymph nodes. I later learned that the cancer had spread to lymph nodes. Had waiting on the genetic testing allowed the cancer to spread? Did I make the right decision?

In January I started chemotherapy. With no idea how I would tolerate it, I took the week off from work and laid low. On the day of the chemo, no big deal, but

then that evening, I was tired — probably more mental than physical. The next morning when I woke up my boyfriend convinced me to take a walk in the park and get some brisk January-in-Ohio fresh air. At the top of Mount Pleasant, he dropped to one knee, popped the question and of course, I said yes. The dreamy haze didn’t last however, when later in the morning I got sick. Not the romantic proposal story of every girl’s dream, but the story that fits my journey.

I finished chemo in March of 2016 and started radiation two weeks later. Chemo was now every three weeks. Week one, I was sick. Week two, I was weak. By week three I was feeling pretty normal. I lived for week three. If I thought the side effects of chemo were tough, I was ill-prepared for seven weeks of daily two-hour round-trip visits to the radiation center. Radiation sounded so easy, but it was a head-game. A daily reminder that I was fighting cancer. Those two hours on the road every single day, there was no ‘week three’ when I would get a break. I made it to the home stretch and in June of 2016, an ultrasound and MRI showed that the treatment was successful. I was cancer-free.

That engagement proposal and ring was my salvation. In my darkest hours, I could look at my hand and see the beautiful emerald and diamond engagement ring and daydream about planning a wedding and spending my life with my new husband. Two years after receiving my clean bill of health, we had a simple wedding in a botanical garden with our family and closest friends and a new journey began.

I was lucky. I was lucky that the cancer was found early. Would I have found that lump early enough on my own? Who knows…I was lucky that my co-workers rallied around me in so many ways. I was lucky that my family supported me throughout my treatment. I was lucky that being a Veteran, the VA contracted all my care in the community and cancer wasn’t a financial burden. I was lucky I had my sweet, loving, encouraging fiancé by my side for the whole journey.

Is it a journey that I would have chosen for myself? Never. But it was a journey that shaped who I am today, showing me just how strong I really am. Being a survivor is an annual celebration. A celebration that I am reminded of every October.”

If you are a cancer survivor, share your story. Be the support for others when they too find themselves on this same journey. Encourage women to do routine self-exams and attend yearly visits with their doctor. Don’t wait to be proactive in your health and take care of yourself.

Dana Wright and her husband on her wedding day after surviving breast cancer.
https://www.portsmouth-dailytimes.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/28/2020/10/web1_Dana-Wedding.jpgDana Wright and her husband on her wedding day after surviving breast cancer.

Staff report