Breast Cancer Program: A Patient Shares Her Experience

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Breast Cancer:  A Patient Shares Her Experience

 

Transcript: 

 

Guest:  Mona Palmore-Haynes – Cancer Survivor

Host:  Dr. Linda Austin – Psychiatrist, Medical University of South Carolina

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  I’m Dr. Linda Austin.  I’m talking, today, with Miss Mona Palmore-Haynes, a breast cancer survivor.  She is talking with us, today, in celebration of National Cancer Survivors Week.  Miss Palmore-Haynes, you have a special story to tell.  You discovered your breast cancer, when?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  June of ’07.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And how did you discover it?

 

Mona Palmore Haynes:  I do my breast exams often, and I discovered a lump.  The next month, the lump didn’t go away and I got really upset about it.  I called my gynecologist and requested to come in, and she said, okay.  Then, she felt it, and they immediately requested for me to have a mammogram.  

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  I see.  And then you called back with news that was not what you wanted to hear.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Exactly.  The news was devastating.  They told me that I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  At the time, my tumor was 3.5 centimeters.  And at that time, she was very worried.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  That’s about an inch and a half.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Did you have any family history of breast cancer?  Had there been any reason to think that you might be vulnerable? 

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  No family member whatsoever.  But, I had a complete hysterectomy in 1994, and I took estrogen for 13 and a half years.  They didn’t tell me, but I believe that the estrogen had something to do with the breast cancer, the growth of it.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  I see. So, tell us about the course of treatment.  I know you elected to do something which I think is a wonderful, fantastic thing to do, which is participate in an experimental drug regimen, a so-called clinical trial.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Tell us about that.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Well, at first, I didn’t really understand it.  I didn’t know if I really wanted to do it.  But after I spoke with my oncologist, and he told me the results of people who went through the clinical trial, then, I agreed to do it.  I’m so glad I did it.  I took a shot every day throughout the entire eight months of going through chemo, and my tumor shrank immediately.  It was just wonderful.  I, then, saw that my tumor went from 3.55 to, basically, nothing.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Just to clarify, your doctor had elected, first, to do the chemo and experimental drug, and then to do the surgery?  Sometimes it’s done the other way around.  But, in your case, you could actually feel the shrinkage of the tumor in response to the medications.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Exactly.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  That must have been very reassuring to you. 

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Very.  I was so happy.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  I bet you were.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes, I was.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Tell us about side effects from the chemotherapy.  I’m sure that was not an easy thing.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  No.  Believe it or not, I did not wish chemo on anybody.  My side effect was nausea.  I just got sick every time I took it.  You know, I got sick every day for at least two weeks straight, every day.  I had headaches every day.  For eight months, I had a headache.  And, I gained a lot of weight.  I didn’t really want to say that one.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Were you a working woman? 

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And, were you able to continue working during that time, or did you have to take off from work?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  I had to take off at least a year and a half.  Chemo makes you so tired.  Your body just feels like you cannot make it from corner to the next.  Then, as soon as you feel better, it’s time for another dose.  My body was absolutely drained throughout the whole series.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And, you had eight rounds of chemotherapy?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And they were spaced, how far apart?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Once every three weeks.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  I see.  So, that was 24 weeks.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And then after that, you had the surgery, is that right?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And then after that, radiation?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Yes.  I had 32 treatments of radiation every day, yes.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Wow.  That was quite a process.  And, when did that end?  How long, now, have you been out of treatment?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Approximately six months.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  And what has that six months been like for you?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Oh, it’s been wonderful.  I’m trying to get back to work.  It’s been amazing.  My body is finally getting back to normal, from the way it used to be.  You know, I was always tired and run down, and just so disgusted.  But now I’m feeling much better.  I did a mammogram and an ultrasound, and my body is doing absolutely wonderful.  My oncologist told me that everybody has problems with weight gain.  He suggests exercise, which I do four times a week, and to get on Weight Watchers.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Now, Mona, I know that there are women, or friends, relatives, sisters, husbands of women, who will hear this podcast, who, themselves, are, or love somebody who is going through this, what words of advice do you have?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  My word of advice to anybody who is going through, or went through, what I did, you really need to come up with a coping skill.  You must learn to cope with your breast cancer.  To cope with it, you need to have a positive attitude.  You must think there’s no way in the world you’re going to leave this world.  You have to have faith.  You have to think positively the whole time.  You cannot feel sorry for yourself.  And you don’t want to hear anything negative from anybody.  The best thing I can tell everybody is to have faith.  What helps is having faith, a family that prays, as well as a positive attitude, coping skills, and not stressing out.  Please, no stress!  Stress does not work with chemo.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  What happens, though, for those people who say, you know, I need one place, one person, that I don’t have to have a stiff upper life with, where I can just say that I’m mad, or I’m sad, or I’m scared, or whatever?  Did you ever give in to those feelings with anybody?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  No.  I really didn’t.  I guess I can say that I was mad with my gynecologist for keeping me on estrogen for 13 years.  But I knew I had to get over that in order for me to heal from breast cancer.  So, you don’t worry about being mad, and you don’t want to talk to anybody who’s mad.  You focus on the good things, and you think about your future, your kids, your family, that everything is going to be okay.  You pray.  You thank Him for healing the breast cancer, or any kind of cancer.  You have to think positively.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Well, that’s very important advice.  What lies ahead for you now?  What are you looking forward to next year, for example?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  My next year is looking to get back to work.  I’m self-employed.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  As?

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  I own a cleaning company.  I have some contracts waiting.  I’m just hoping and praying that I get this bid.  I need to get my savings account up to another level.  When I couldn’t work, I had to use what I had.  Because of my faith, and my working skills, I’m optimistic about my future.  I can do anything!

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  You have such spirit and such energy, and such a beautiful smile, and light in your eyes.  Thank you so much for sharing your story.  I know it will mean a great deal to someone out there who is listening to this.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  I hope so.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  Good luck to you.

 

Mona Palmore-Haynes:  Thank you.  Have a great day.

 

Dr. Linda Austin:  You too.


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