‘What I wish I knew then’: Local women share advice from their breast cancer journeys

BUCKHANNON – As Breast Cancer Awareness Month comes to a close, My Buckhannon is sharing advice breast cancer survivors would have given themselves if they could travel back in time — and what they’d tell those currently facing a similar diagnosis.

We thank these women for graciously sharing their stories, and we’ve also put together some statistics on current breast cancer diagnoses in the United States.

Shanda Hoover, of Buckhannon, said she was diagnosed with breast cancer on Sept. 25, 2015.

“About two weeks before that, my doctor found a lump during a yearly routine visit,” Hoover said. “She got me in quick to see someone, and I had an ultrasound. From there, I was referred to Morgantown to the Mary Babb Cancer Center.”

Hoover said she received five months of chemotherapy and said the following Easter, she had a double mastectomy and a partial reconstruction surgery.

“A few months later, I had a full breast reconstruction surgery,” she said. “Now, I am on a medicine for about 10 years. They are doing more studies, and I may be able to come off the medicine in five years. It shuts my ovaries down so I have no hormones in my body. My tumor was being fed by hormones.”

Now, two-and-a-half years later, Hoover is cancer-free.

“It’s been an adjustment to get back to the real world,” Hoover said.

Hoover said if she could travel back in time before she was diagnosed, she would tell herself to put everything in God’s hands.

“I would tell myself to trust Him,” Hoover said. “I had a lot of faith in God. The year before I received my diagnosis, I was on a new walk with God. I had fallen out of attending church for 15 years, and I don’t know how I would have made it through without Him.”

She said before her diagnosis, she had heard of the Upshur County Relay for Life but cancer didn’t affect her or anybody she knew, so it wasn’t close to her heart.

“Now that other friends, family members and I have gone through cancer, I realize what a great organization Relay for Life is,” she said. “Everything they are doing is great.”

Hoover said when she first received her cancer diagnosis it was like a punch in the gut.

“I read your chances of survival for the first five years is 52 percent,” she said. “You just have to keep up your faith to get through it. They are coming out with so many new things, and that gives you hope for the future. We need to keep praying that one of these days they will find a cure.”

Daisy Hunt, of Rock Cave, said her diagnosis of breast cancer came when she was 44 years old.

“That is younger than when doctors recommend breast cancer screenings,” Hunt said. “Now they recommend your first mammogram begins at age 40, unless you have had problems or a family history of breast cancer. I didn’t have a family history or risk factors, but back then, they recommended you have mammograms beginning at age 50.”

Hunt said she went in for a routine physical and even though the doctor did not find anything out of the ordinary, she sent her for a routine mammogram.

“The mammogram indicated I had a lump,” she said. “She sent me to a surgeon who did an ultrasound. The ultrasound didn’t show anything abnormal. But the doctor said he still wanted to see what was going on.”

Hunt said her lump was cancerous and because of the location of the cancer, the only medical test that would have picked up the lump was the mammogram.

“Now I’m a mammogram pusher,” Hunt said. “Everyone I talk to I make sure they know they need to get their mammograms.”

Even though the tests indicated Hunt was a good candidate for a lumpectomy, she said she chose to have a mastectomy so she would not have to take radiation or chemotherapy treatments.

“I had the mastectomy, and I haven’t had any further problems,” Hunt said. “That was 16 years ago and I am doing good.”
Hunt has advice for women.

“I think women should have mammograms starting at age 40,” she said. “If they have family history, I think they should start at age 35, even if insurance won’t pay for them. If I had gone by the age 50 standard, they would not have found my cancer for another six years because I had no family history or risk factors.”

Hunt said she recommends women do monthly self-breast examinations.

“You know your own body better than anyone does. You will notice a difference even before the doctor will,” she said.

She also encouraged women to take care of themselves.

“Get yearly checkups and find a primary care physician you can get to know, who will get to know you so they know when something is wrong,” Hunt said. “Eat healthy, exercise and take care of yourself. Women are generally the primary [caregivers] in a family. If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone else.”

Breast cancer statistics
-According to www.breastcancer.org, about 1 in 8 U.S. women will develop invasive breast cancer in their lifetime.

-In 2018, there will be an estimated 266,120 new cases of invasive breast cancer in the U.S.

-About 41 women in the U.S. are expected to die in 2018 from breast cancer; however, death rates have been decreasing since 1989.

-The most significant risk factors for breast cancer are being a woman and growing older.

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