By Ginna Parsons | NEMS Daily Journal
BOONEVILLE – For more than 10 years, Angie Via was at her ob/gyn’s office every year, like clockwork, for her annual pelvic exam and mammogram.
Taking care of her personal health was just a normal part of her life.
And then, the meaning of normal got skewed.
Her doctor retired. Her youngest daughter, Mary Margaret, started college. Her other daughter, Genie Alice, got married. And then her new son-in-law, Nate Causey, was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
Three years in a row, Via skipped her yearly checkup and mammogram.
“I was busy taking care of everybody else,” Via said. “We were just busy in general, with a wedding and college and a brain tumor. And I’m never sick. So I didn’t go to the doctor at all.”
This past April, Via, 57, finally made an appointment for herself.
“I went and had my pelvic and I had a mammogram scheduled, but I canceled it. I went a couple of weeks later for it and there was a change in breast tissue,” she said.
From there, she went to see a doctor who scheduled a stereotactic biopsy.
“He called a couple of days later and said I had a lump and it was ductile carcinoma,” Via said. “He said it was between Stage 0 and Stage 1 – still very early. But all I heard was ‘cancer.’”
Via and her doctor considered her options – mastectomy or lumpectomy – and she ultimately decided the best thing for her was a lumpectomy followed by six weeks of radiation.
“I was also hormone-positive, which means the hormones I’d been taking for menopause were feeding the cancer, so I had to throw my hormone medicine in the trash,” Via said. “That was really tough. Now, I’m taking Femara for five years. It’s like Tamoxifen, but newer.”
Via had the lumpectomy in June and the radiation began the next month. She finished her treatments in August.
“My next mammogram is in November,” she said. “I’ll see the oncologist and have a scan, but they have assured me that the cancer is gone. I don’t let myself think any other way.”
What is normal?
Via, who teaches speech pathology part time at Wheeler, lives her life differently today than she did six months ago.
“If it’s time for my mammogram, I’m going to be there,” she said. “I’ve learned I’m not invincible, that I can’t fix everything. I’ve learned God is awesome. I’ve learned if you’re not going to take care of yourself, nobody else is going to do it for you. You can’t be a good wife or good mother or good daughter if you don’t take care of yourself. Prevention is so important and getting a mammogram is so very easy.”
Via said that, ironically, since her diagnosis, many of her friends in Booneville are finding out they have breast cancer.
“And I’ve been able to help them, just like so many people helped me,” she said. “I can drive them to treatment and give them helpful tips. This is going to be a life-long part of who I am.”
Via said she’s learned to enjoy the little things more, like spending time with her family, which includes her attorney-husband, George; laughing with friends; vacationing at Pickwick; and tailgating in the Grove at Ole Miss.
“Those times are precious,” she said, with tears in her eyes. “I’ve still got a lot I want to do and I’m not going to let this consume my life. If you get breast cancer, get your treatment and move on. Because life goes on. And we’re lucky every day to have another day. Every day is a gift. You redefine normal. What is normal, anyway?”