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Melinda Winchester

I had a routine mammogram on Oct. 25, 2012 and the radiology tech saw something that concerned her. After attempting a biopsy twice with no success, they scheduled me for a lumpectomy/surgical biopsy on Nov. 2. I was scared but everyone I talked with and everything I read said that 80 percent of breast biopsies turn out to be benign. So I tried to convince myself that it was nothing. However, it turned out to be cancer. At that point, I felt like I had been hit in the head and everything seemed like a dream. I had all of the "textbook" fears and I could see the fear in my family. I have two children, a 29-year-old son and a 13-year-old daughter. I was especially worried for my daughter because I knew that my diagnosis put her in a high risk category. However, I already knew an oncologist who could calm my fears and who would know the right treatment for me. I have known Dr. Kirby Smith for 28 years. He was my mother’s oncologist for 17 years as she battled leukemia first and then lung cancer. She died in 2001. My husband, Phillip was diagnosed with leukemia in 2003. (He is in remission now and sees Dr. Smith on a regular basis.) I started chemo on Dec. 4th. I had treatments once every three weeks for a total of six treatments. I was told I would lose my hair 14 days after the first treatment and I did. In preparation, I had my hair cut very short before the first treatment and then on the day it began to fall out, I had my husband and children shave my head. It was hard losing my hair but I tried to keep our spirits up. I let my kids shave a mohawk first and take a few pictures before shaving it all. How often do you get to see your mom with a mohawk? I made it through chemo with the support, love and prayers of so many. After chemo I had scans and was referred to Dr. Alyssa Throckmorton. I met with her and immediately felt I was in the right hands. We discussed two options; go back in and remove more tissue around the margins and reduce the other breast for symmetry followed by six weeks of radiation or a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. After a lot of prayer and gathering information, I decided to have the mastectomy. I was referred to Dr. Robert Chandler for the reconstruction and again I felt like he was the perfect choice. My surgery was at the end of May, and I have been seeing Dr. Chandler weekly since then. During the surgery, expanders were placed in my chest and each week saline is added to the expanders to stretch the skin and muscles in preparation for the implant surgery which was scheduled for Aug. 26, 2013. I will have a minor cosmetic surgery sometime in Octoberwhich will round out a full year of this journey.

Educate yourself on your options, learn to lean on others, allow yourself to visit “pity city” but don’t stay there, find an outlet to journal your thoughts and feelings, pray, pray, pray and laugh as much as you can. There is no “right or wrong” way to deal with your diagnosis. Some, like me, feel the need to talk with anyone who will listen while others may feel awkward talking about it. Just know that there are so many people willing to help you and there are many resources available.