Routine self-exam catches aggressive cancer

Adam Robison | Daily Journal During her breast cancer treatments, Renée Reid of New Albany adopted "I got this" as her mantra when facing obstacles caused by the disease. It remains her catchphrase six years later.

Adam Robison | Daily Journal
During her breast cancer treatments, Renée Reid of New Albany adopted “I got this” as her mantra when facing obstacles caused by the disease. It remains her catchphrase six years later.

By M. Scott Morris

Daily Journal

NEW ALBANY – Renée Reid found a lump on her breast during a self-exam, then tried to forget it.

Luckily, she woke up the next day with bronchitis. A trip to the doctor was in order.

“I said, ‘Hey, isn’t this an enlarged gland from the pneumonia or bronchitis?’” the New Albany resident recalled. “They said, ‘No.’”

Reid, 41, had a family history of fiber knots. Besides, she was 35 and not considered high-risk. To be safe, a needle biopsy was performed. A phone call soon followed.

“The doctor wanted me to come in, but I had decided it was positive,” Reid said. “I said, ‘Just tell me.’ He didn’t enjoy telling me over the phone. Everything went quiet after that.”

Reid needed personal time, and appreciated that her husband, Bill, dove into the technical details of her illness.

“It distracted him, which helped,” she said. “I was dealing with very emotional issues at that point. It was important to be able to process it.

“I didn’t need to have someone in my face saying, ‘It’s OK. You’re going to survive.’ I needed to know how this would affect my family, my job. What would I leave behind if I didn’t survive?”

She had her emotional process and her husband had an intellectual one, learning all he could about treatment options.

“By the time we talked to the doctors, he understood it. When they rattled off terms, he would explain it for me and that was helpful,” Reid said. “We were both stronger when we came back together. You look back and think that was weeks or months, but that took place in a day or two.”

Reid had a lumpectomy, and the out-patient surgery went well. The cancer had been growing quickly, so that case of bronchitis might have been a life-saver.

She said she went home “to sleep or pretend to sleep. Your mind is running 100 miles a minute. Just because you had surgery, it’s not over.”

Her first chemotherapy session was a giant slice of unpleasantness. She’d had a port installed to deliver the drug, but the needle didn’t align with the port. Medicine spread around the injection point, causing a severe burning sensation. Her face and upper body flushed red.

“The nurses looked at it and they started yelling,” Reid said. “Obviously, it was not normal.”

She got about 15 bicarbonate shots around the port. The doctor suggested she come back another day for her chemo session.

“I didn’t want to wait any longer,” she said. “I wanted to get it done.”

Radiation was more draining that she’d expected. Reid has two children, Parker and Emma. They’re 12 and 10 now, but they needed more attention six years ago. She also co-owned an ad agency.

“With the radiation, that’s when I had no energy to get up and do anything,” she said. “To not have that get-up-and-go, I felt robbed of that.”

The last radiation treatment was on her birthday, Dec. 6, 2007. She’s been in remission since. Her eating habits have changed, and she walks four or five times a week. She also took another job that reduced her stress load.

Last year, she completed a Susan G. Komen 3-Day Walk for the Cure in San Diego. Reid and a friend put blisters on their feet over 60 city miles.

“You raise money to participate. I felt compelled to do it,” Reid said. “Research done prior to my incident helped discover medicine that eradicated my breast cancer so quickly. I thought about my daughter and doing something for her.”

scott.morris@journalinc.com