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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Meet Margaret Carter, A Survivor

By Bo McMullian

Margaret Carter was “devastated” in October of last year when her son’s wife in Tallahassee came down with breast cancer. “I asked the Lord why it couldn’t be me,” she thought. But quick to react to “life’s certainties,” she increased her own self examinations from monthly to weekly as she helped her daughter-in-law through her treatment. And sure enough, two months later, she was diagnosed with breast cancer in Dothan.

Her daughter-in-law’s cancer is now in remission after treatment that included chemotherapy. Her disease was caught before it entered her lymph nodes, Mrs. Carter said. And Mrs. Carter’s timely lumpectomy has also removed all the cancer from her infected breast and doctors say there is little chance of a recurrence.

Mrs. Carter, 79, a former registered nurse, attributes cancer awareness and other health meetings, self-exams and “a lot of praying- both by myself and my doctor and I together,” to her survival story. “When my doctor told me of the cancer diagnosis,” she said. “It was the best day of my life. My doctor prayed with me for quite a while and I felt the Lord was going to take care of everything.” She said she was more troubled by the waiting for the biopsy results than any other part of the event. “I don’t mind the certainties in life,” she told The Jackson County Times in an interview Monday, “but the uncertainties kill me!”

Mrs. Carter and her husband Gus, 83, a World War II vet, have lived in the Galalee community, between Cottondale and Graceville, for more than 40 years. They built a house on land Gus’s grandparents homesteaded back in the 1890s. They have four children, 11 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren and they attend Galalee Methodist Church. Their beautiful pastoral home can only be reached by first going over a one-lane wooden bridge. God has truly taken care of these people.

She gives it all back to Him also. She says she now wants to spread the word to others to help them to also survive cancer. And not just women. “Men get breast cancer too,” she points out. “I would like to be able to say that if I just helped one person survive, what happened to me would have all been worthwhile.” She says younger women, especially those with cancer in their family, need to be more aware and take preventative action. “And by all means,” she said, “when you find it, don’t wait.”

Mrs. Carter immediately went to get her biopsy, she said, even though Christmas of 2008 loomed in the immediate future. In fact, she told her family she had cancer on Christmas day. The sequence went like this: She had a mammogram in June 2008 and it was negative. In October came the bad news from her daughter-in-law. That’s when Mrs. Carter increased the frequency of her self-exams. She found a lump on Dec. 17 and she called the doctor the next day after a night of prayer. She was scheduled for an ultrasound and a biopsy. Then, on Dec. 22, 52 years after her father died of cancer, she was told she had “non-invasive hyperplasia,” and an appointment with a surgeon was scheduled.

She spent the night in the hospital in Dothan after having the lumpectomy on Jan. 8, a report showing that it was “non-invasive carcinoma” but it had not spread to the lymph nodes.

She had to endure 34 treatments of radiation therapy, driving back and forth to Dothan five days a week, but no chemo. She will not have to take any medication for years, she said.

Throughout the entire ordeal, Mrs. Carter says she was never in the slightest physical discomfort. “There were no burning feelings, no loss of appetite, no discomfort,” she says. Although she is hopeful of a new “certainty of non recurrence” in her life, Mrs. Carter is still checking herself regularly. “No one is ever 100 percent sure IT will not come back.”

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