In February 2002, at the age of 50, I was diagnosed with a noninvasive cancer in my right breast. I was an employee of the University of Mississippi Medical Center and was lucky enough to personally know my surgeon and oncologist. A simple lumpectomy, radiation and oral chemo for five years helped me through and move my life forward with confidence.
In May 2002, I was diagnosed with a melanoma on my right shoulder. It was a step back, but my faith in God and the skill of my physicians carried me through what I consider "It's a Wonderful Life," even though annual mammograms, blood work and physician follow-up became a regular part of my life.
Then in September, 2017, my breast cancer returned. It was in my right breast again and invasive. My heart sank. My fabulous oncologist Dr. Barbara Craft scheduled a consult with UMMC's new breast reconstruction surgeon, a PET scan, and prepared me mentally for a mastectomy. "We've got this," she said and I pulled myself up by my boot straps and got ready.
The day of my appointment with the surgeon, Dr. Craft called and asked me to meet her. She was not wearing the beautiful smile I had grown accustomed to for 20 years. She said, "Celeste, you have a spot on your lung."
I couldn't think. All my confidence left me. I was in trouble. I have always been the kind of person, whether as a mother and or staff member, to take charge, solve the problem, and accomplish the mission. Thank God, this time, Dr. Craft took charge. A lung biopsy, a thoracic surgeon consult, blood work, oral chemo for the breast tumor was started until we could resolve the lung tumor. I went to my car and cried hard! Was the spot on my lung metastatic? Was the spot on my lung my primary melanoma? What was my family about to face with my diagnoses?
As it turned out, the lung cancer was another primary, not metastatic cancer, and after four successful surgeries, clean margins, no positive lymph nodes, and a beautiful reconstructed breast, I am a blessed girl! For 15 years I was faithful to follow-up on my mammograms and appointments. I told all my surgeons, "With your skill and my faith in God, we got this." Don't overthink your diagnosis. God gives us a day at a time. Always ask questions. Your questions are important and I never hesitated to ask. I even ask my thoracic surgeon to draw me a picture of my lung and tumor to share with my family.
We are starting a new year. I walk two miles a day. I think about how God put all the right professionals in my life. God is always faithful. And, I remind myself while I'm walking, "It's a Wonderful Life."