Breast Cancer: A Survivor's Story and What You Should Know
In this 2 Your Well-Being discussion with WFMY News 2, Tracey McCain talks with Cone Health breast cancer survivors who share the same message: early detection saves lives.
Breast Cancer Survivors: Early Detection Saves Lives
Rhonitta Hayes was supporting her cousin's cancer fight in the 2019 Women's Only 5K in Greensboro.
“It's very uplifting and encouraging to others,” says Hayes of the race. But little did she know that she would make a life-changing discovery just six months later in March 2020.
“I threw my hand across my chest and it just happened to land on my breasts, where I felt a knot,” Hayes remembers. Doctors found two lumps in her left breast, and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer.
Hayes had stage 2 of a more aggressive form of breast cancer. Triple negative breast cancer accounts for about 10% - 15% of all breast cancers, but it grows and spreads faster, and tends to have a worse prognosis.
Hayes agrees that awareness is the key. “It saved my life,” she says. “I had surgery in April, chemo started in May, and it went all the way until September. And then in October to December, I did 25 rounds of radiation.”
Hayes received treatment in 2020, when hospitals were closed to visitors. She had no family there to hold her hand.
“This was right when covid started, so everything I did thus far was all by myself with my family in the parking lot on FaceTime.”
But she also found support through the Alight Program, where she learned she’s not alone.
Jill Berry is an Alight Program assistant and a 13-year breast cancer survivor. She connects newly diagnosed breast cancer patients with mentors who help them navigate their journey.
“The numbers are incredible. We on average get 6-8 brand new patients every week,” says Berry. “Do the math on that. Every week. And those are the those are the ones that are in clinic. … Once you hear those words – that you have you have breast cancer – all these thoughts start to go through your mind, and you don't know what's next, ‘how am I going to end up’ – you can't see the end game.”
Berry says fear of the unknown and finances are keeping women who need care from their annual checkups and breast cancer screenings. The Alight Program helps with that too.
Hayes agrees that men and women should never postpone getting care because of finances. “My bills actually mounted up to almost four hundred thousand dollars, and I did not have to come out of my pocket with almost four hundred thousand dollars,” she recalls.
Berry emphasizes the importance of getting care. “No matter what your insurance situation is or your financial situation is, get your mammogram. Get your checkups. Worry about the financial stuff on the end. Let's get you treated and stay alive.”
Money to help women get those life-saving screenings and counseling services comes from fundraisers. The biggest one is Cone Health's Women’s Only 5K. So when you lace up on Saturday, October 1, remember your donation helps save a life.
“Every day, lives are being impacted because of the programs that we provide,” says Berry.
Hayes started this race as a breast cancer supporter. But she'll tackle it this year as a survivor.
“This will be the first official walk that I can say I know why we're walking,” says Hayes. But to actually have gone through that journey and come out on the other side even better than before – this does not have to be a death sentence. I am now back onto the path of living my best cancer-free life.”
Watch the full interview and learn about breast cancer from Oncology Outreach Manager Christine Brannock in the video above.
Support Local Women at the Women's Only 5K
Want to help make a difference in the lives of women right here in our community? Join us for the 2022 Women's Only 5K Walk & Run, which raises funds that provide screenings and support for local women with breast cancer.