A Fight We Can Win

The Prisma Health Midlands Foundation 2019 Walk for Life

By Dawn Hunt

It seemed like the voice was ready to share good news…

July 3, 2013 – I remember waiting all day for the call. It was a long day. Why was I waiting? My annual mammogram had been June 26th, the day before my 45th birthday. As I had done for the past five years, I left my appointment happy it was over and confident all was fine.

Two days later on Friday, June 28th, an unexpected letter arrived. There was an irregularity and I needed a second mammogram. I was asked to schedule a follow-up appointment. As fast as I could dial the number, I made the call and was scheduled for Tuesday, July 2nd. Surely, the doctors were being careful, erring on the side of caution.

The day of my appointment, things seemed to move so quickly. The nurse completed the mammogram, reviewed it with the doctor and informed me he did not think there was any problem. To be safe, he wanted to complete an ultrasound. During that ultrasound, they confirmed no issue in the initial area of concern. What he did find was a new area of interest, and he wanted to biopsy the area. When? They checked their schedule and could do it within the hour. While I waited, I called my husband, David, with an update. He offered to come sit with me, to support me, to help reassure me. I told him I was fine and knew all would be okay.

Following the biopsy, I was told, they would call me by 4:30pm or 5pm the next afternoon. Waking up on July 3rd, I knew I needed to stay busy. I knew no matter what happened, David and I were in this together and could handle anything, so I did not want to appear worried.

Our son, Lennon, would turn 11 on July 11th and start middle school in August. Luckily for me, I worked from home and had some flexibility. As I worked, the morning flew past. As noon rolled around, Lennon and I decided to go to a movie for a distraction. Spending time with my beautiful son felt like the best way not allow myself to actively think about the pending call.

At 3:45pm, thoughts began to creep in. I spoke with David, and he said he was coming home early to be with us. David wanted to be there to support me, and I needed him. I told him that, if I had not received a call by 4:30pm, I would call the office.

Around 4:20pm, the phone rang. I was sitting on our bed, David standing in front of me. The voice on the phone asked to speak with Dawn Hunt. Speaking. The nurse asked me if I was ready to hear the results. Her voice sounded positive and calming, almost upbeat. I was not prepared for, “I am sorry, you are positive for cancer.” She said they would send the records to my gynecologist and everything would then proceed through her.

I don’t know what my husband saw on my face, but the news felt like a punch to my stomach. What did I know about cancer, treatment, survival, support? Nothing. No one close to me had ever been diagnosed with breast cancer. What did this mean for our family?

We were leaving the next morning to meet family and friends in Charleston, SC for the 4th of July. Should I say anything? What should I say? I waited. I was so uninformed. I wanted to be strong and stay positive, but could only do that with a clear path forward. My decision was to share if I needed to, but to have a plan before I said too much, too soon.

Ultimately, two tumors were identified in my left breast. After two surgeries, six chemotherapy treatments and 36 radiation treatments, I am cancer-free, six years and counting. My story is not unique, but it is a testament to early detection and the benefits of technological advancements and amazing doctors and nurses. By catching my cancer early, I drastically improved my chance to win the fight.

One in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime. As a survivor, sharing my story and the stories of others is so important to engaging people in this fight. If your life has not been touched by breast cancer — either your own diagnosis, a family member, friend, or neighbor’s — be thankful, but do not be complacent. Know your body, schedule mammograms, act when something does not feel right, and do not be afraid of the unknown. For people younger than 40, while you do not yet get mammograms, perform self-exams. The worst action is inaction.

We can defeat breast cancer, but we need your help to make this happen. Prisma Health Midlands Foundation has been fighting the fight for 29 years. With the help of sponsors, participants and volunteers, they have raised more than $10 million to fund the latest advancements in mammography and breast ultrasound technology for Prisma Health Breast Center locations in the Midlands and in the mobile mammography unit.

I am honored to chair the 2019 Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K + 10K committee. My commitment to the cause is unwavering and part of my being. My hope is that each of you reading this will find a way to be part of the story. We need voices in the community, volunteers for events, sponsors, donors and participants.

Engage because it matters. Engage because cancer affects too many people. Engage because this is a fight we can win.

29th Walk for Life and Famously Hot Pink Half Marathon, 5K + 10K
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2019
Segra Park, Columbia
Register at WalkForLifeColumbia.org

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