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Darlene Pryor

My Breast Cancer Journey is Only a Small Part of My Story

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Earlier this month,Mo Nix invited us to share our breast cancer stories to our group, Mentally Empowered. Here's mine:
As a mother of five sons it wasn't always easy to find time to take care of myself. All my sick time was used for my son's mishaps and childhood ills. Three of them had asthma coupled with allergies. All of them were active daredevils.
I had my first mammogram in 1995 when I returned for my six month visit after my twins were born. My gynecologist in Ct had the machine on site. I didn't have another until they were 16 yrs old, almost 17.
My gynecologist in Alabama would give me a referral each time I went in for my exam. It was enough of a hassle to make it to that appointment. They wanted me to call the hospital, make another appointment, and take off work again! Never happened. Each time I would take the referral form, stuff it in my purse or a notebook, with every intention of calling later, and forget about it. Out of site out of mind, right. Besides breast cancer was something that happened to other people in other families.
Then in Oct. 2010, that insidious disease crept into my own family. The Sunday edition of the Birmingham News (October 3, I believe) was the pink edition. There were copies in the break room at work. I read through all the survivor stories. That night at home I went online and read more stories shared by survivors. Then my son called me to talk about relatives on his father's side who'd succumbed to cancer. He asked me if he was going to get Cancer. I assured him that just because they had had it, didn't mean he would. I believed that.
It was Monday night (Oct 4). I would leave my house at 2:00-ish to drive to Alabaster from Jacksonville for my 5:00 shift. When I came out of my bathroom after taking my shower, the light was off in my bedroom. I walked across the room in the dark to turn on the light. Just as I reached out to flip the switch, I stepped on the plug hanging from the Iron I had left on my filing cabinet. I quickly jerked my foot up, but unfortunately I was in midstride and had already lifted the other foot. I collapsed awkwardly to the floor, hitting my right breast on the corner of the filing cabinet. I cried out, grabbed my breast and stumbled over to the bed. Benjamin, one of the twins, ran up to my door "Are you alright in there?"
"What happened?"
"None of your business!"
Meanwhile. I dialed my sister's number. "Hello"
"I'm going to have a hematoma on my breast"
"Oh, well. I'm talking to husband right now. I'll call you back later."
It's wasn't that short but it seemed like it. I laid in the bed with my hand across my chest feeling the knot that had already formed, thinking 'what if there was already something there?' I had heard women say that bruises could turn to cancer. I didn't believe that, but for some reason I did think it was possible that my injury could have brought something to the surface that was already there. I didn't tell my husband (ex) about it that night because I didn't quite know how to explain how I hit the corner of that filing cabinet with my breast. I kept envisioning Madea as she tried to understand how her niece hit her eye on the kitchen cabinet door.
The next night as we lay in bed, I placed my ex’s hand on my breast to feel the newly discovered knot. He said, “That’s been there.” After my initial shock to learn that he had felt a lump in my breast and said nothing, I realized I needed to have this thing checked out. That Friday, (Oct. 8). I went to Dr. K, in Anniston. He was very concerned and referred me to rmc for a mammogram. I went in on Wed. (Oct. 13) and had my first mammogram in 16 years or so. After the scan the very bubbly technician sent me to xray, just to be sure. The xray tech didn’t say anything to me, but I knew something was wrong. I felt like she was uncomfortable. She informed me that my doctor would call me with the results. I went home and took a nap. That evening as I was preparing to go to my grad school class I received a call from my doctor’s office that they wanted me to come in for the results. I let my ex know that I had to go do my presentation and then I would need him to take me to the doctor’s ofc.
I arrived on campus early and went to my professor’s ofc to ask if I could give my presentation first and leave. Before I said anything, he asked, “Are you okay, you look sick?” I said I was tired and stressed and it had been a long day. Then I explained that I needed to leave early to go get my mammogram results.
Once we arrived at the doctor’s ofc he informed us that the scans were abnormal and possibly cancerous. He wanted me to have a biopsy as soon as possible. He went to take care of the paperwork. That was when my ex-husband decided to question how, exactly, I had managed to hit my breast on the corner of the filing cabinet that was only 2 ½ ft. high. He was trying to process how this freak accident could end up as a possible cancer diagnosis. I was too. Although I'd had more time to consider the possibility, I was still dealing with it. So, after repeatedly answering the same questions, I threw the ball in Dr. K’s court when he returned. I asked Dr. K to explain to him how this injury led to the discovery of possible breast cancer. Dr. K told him it didn’t really matter how I had sustained the injury, we were looking at a possible cancer diagnosis and we needed to focus on that.
We went to the Cancer Treatment Center that next Wednesday (Oct. 20) for a consult. Dr. S. decided to do a needle biopsy at that time. It was a quick procedure resulting in some soreness. The next day I went back to work. Friday evening, after work, we went back to Dr. K for the results. He confirmed that yes, I did indeed have breast cancer. As we left the ofc, I called my daddy and he called his mother.
My daddy basically told me not to go borrowing trouble. He reminded me that cancer is not the automatic death sentence that it once was. He advised me not to dwell on it or let my imagination run wild. Just take every step as it comes and follow my doctor’s instructions. Another great piece of advice my father gave me. When I considered running to UAB for treatment, he reminded me that since UAB was a teaching hospital, even if I had a top level, experienced doctor, I’d be more likely to actually be treated by inexperienced doctors. If I stuck with the Cancer Treatment Center, which ever doctor I chose would be the one who actually treated me. All very true for the most part.
So I finally had the answer I had feared for nearly three weeks. Without telling them what was going on, I had spoken with family members about what they would do if my kids were to ever lose their mother. On that long drive in to work I would pray to God, begging him to allow me to see all of my sons grow up to be the men he designed them to be. The enemy tried to tell me God was going to move me out of the way so someone else could do a better job. One of those mornings I received a peaceful assurance that everything would be alright. That cancer would not win. One by one, I shared my situation with the rest of my family. I literally felt the covering of their prayers. I told my sons on Halloween night. Bad choice on my part. But I was to begin chemo, the next week and I didn’t know how it was going to affect me. First they were upset that I had curtailed their plans to have a family meeting, then they were ashamed that they were upset. Very bad timing on my part. We got through it though.I have to give credit to the ex for his input that night
I had triple negative breast cancer. No family history of breast cancer. Cancer, but not breast cancer. I went through my treatments, chemo, surgery, and then radiation. In the midst of all that, I received my master’s degree in Public Administration and I started working as an Assistant Manager at Walmart. I received my last treatment shortly after I completed my management training. When I meet other women who receive this diagnosis, I am quick to share the great advice I received from my daddy, who is also a survivor. And life continues to go on.
Image may contain: 1 person, smiling, eyeglasses and closeup
from my son's Facebook page:  Benjamin Pryor June 5, 2016 · Allowed on timeline So there's this thought that crossed my mind: it doesn't really come really often, which I am SOO glad that it doesn't to be real with you all, but to today it just hit me. So first, take a look at this picture... A real long look. Now let's focus on the woman in the picture. Not many people that I associate myself with is really aware of this because I don't like to brag about it, but there was a moment (just a moment) in our lives where we thought this picture would be impossible. At least, for me, there was a time. Don't know how my other brothers took it. Anyways, back in the dramatic years of highschool, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. We didn't really make it easy for her to tell us, but she got the message across and suddenly I realized then that I'm not the only one here fighting the good fight, there are others who suffer a lot more. I see it on television a lot, because those news channel love to show us negative things, but it really didn't hit home until, well, it really hit home. My own mother was livin on a prayer (sing it if you want to), but one thing I realized is that she did not live like a patient. She did not go into a corner saying "Woe is Me." She did quite the opposite. She cut her hair with a smile (I have the pictures) Tried on a lot of weaves and became a model who demanded pictures and more pictures. It was serious, no doubt, but my mother never stopped living by example for us even when she really deserved a pity party. She probably would've got mad anyways.... Since finding out she had cancer, she graduated from JSU, ran a bunch of 5ks, loss weight and gain weight and loss weight again (in her opinion, I think she just loss weight), supported each of her kids in their individual endeavors, broke her ankle (my bad), recovered and started running again, worked ridiculous hours at Wal-mart, moved to California, started her own book (if you want more info on that, let me know) and flew back to Alabama to check on her family. I thank God for this blessing he has given this family. We aren't perfect, we have problems, but we get through them. My mom has, so it's pretty much my job to be better as her son. — with Darlene Pryor and Brian Pryor. 
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