Breast cancer strikes both mother and daughter

By Ouida Massengill/Special to the Journal

It was early August 1997, and it was time for my mammogram. I made the trip to Memphis. Everything seemed fine. They said nothing had changed from my last visit which was a year ago.
About two weeks later, I had this premonition that something was wrong. Early that Monday morning I was going to work. People were waiting at the job site trailer. It seemed I didn’t have the time to spare. I waited in my doctor’s office parking lot until he finally arrived about 9:30 a.m. He listened to my concerns. He reviewed the files and he had the results of the mammogram I had had two weeks before. He said everything looked fine, and I didn’t have anything to worry about. I insisted on having a biopsy. He agreed with me since I had felt so strongly about my problem.
I found out in short order you take one step at a time. It was a sequence of scans, tests, doctors, surgeons and decisions. It was the hardest decision of my life. I chose a radical mastectomy with reconstruction surgery at a later date.
The time for surgery came. My family and friends were all there for support. It was time to start chemotherapy. I never knew anybody who had taken chemo. Every nerve in my body was crying for help. I was scared. I didn’t know anything about cancer. The chemo did what it was supposed to do. It kills the cancer cells and the good ones too. It makes you sick and steals your energy and your hair.
Next came the radiation – 36 treatments. These treatments left me fatigued. This phase was completed and it was time for re-construction. I was cancer-free.
In 2007, I had my exam and sure enough the cancer was returning. That was a start of a long battle I am still fighting today. Chemo would probably be a part of the rest of my life, unless a cure is found.
But throughout all of this, the most important thing in my life besides God, my children, and my grandchildren, is my husband, Ray. He is not only my partner and best friend, but the love of my life. He has been there through it all. When I was first diagnosed, we were about to celebrate our 37th wedding anniversary, and in 2010, we celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary together and plan on having many more.
Then in 2011, the fear all parents have was staring me in the face. My daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had the lump removed and took six months of chemo. We thought all was well. She called me and said “Mom, I feel something.” I panicked. She started a new round of tests, doctors and X-rays. This cancer was near the same area as the previous cancer. This time it was serious. She had an aggressive type of breast cancer. A double mastectomy and chemo were suggested. She is in the process of healing and then the chemo will start again.
When I was diagnosed, I cried. When my daughter was diagnosed, I wept before the Lord. A parent’s greatest nightmare is to have a child diagnosed with a devastating disease. I became physically ill.
My faith remains strong. I pray for a cure. Until then, I will fight and serve until that day comes … The day when there will be no more death, sorrow or pain.
Pam is in the process of adopting a beautiful little boy. She has a lot of faith in her doctors. She was a daddy’s girl but she is leaning more on Mom these days. She has a wonderful husband and a great teenage son. They give her the support she needs.
I pray Pam’s journey will not be like mine. I pray she will be cancer-free and have a long healthy life. We are so blessed to be loved and cared about, which is the greatest gift in the world.
We don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we do know who holds tomorrow.