Stacey Dover vividly recalls how her bout with breast cancer started with the discovery of a knot. Her worst fears were realized when a May 2018 biopsy at Clearview Cancer Care in Huntsville confirmed it was cancer.
“The procedure was done on a Monday and I was supposed to return on Wednesday,” she said. “I figured I would work half a day at my job at Plainview elementary, then ride over, but it was driving me crazy so I went early.”
She learned it was “triple-negative” breast cancer, the type that’s harder to treat because there are no known proteins for cancer drugs to target. Dover began medical treatment right away to keep symptoms from becoming more serious and affecting her organs.
“My doctor was Robert Lancaster – an awesome man of God – and I cried when he told me my hair would fall out from the chemotherapy treatments every other week,” she said.
Dover relied on her church family to support her actual family throughout that difficult summer and into the fall as she underwent radiation treatments.
“The night I found out I had cancer, I called my pastor and the church elders came over to pray over me and anoint me with oil in the name of the Lord,” she said.
When asked what advice she would give someone learning of a cancer diagnosis, Dover said, “To pray. Because that is where healing begins.”
While her church, her faith, friends and family supported her mentally, the medicine affected her physically.
“The steroids pump you up during chemo, but then you bottom out and feel so tired you just want to sleep all the time,” she said.
When she learned her cancer was finally in remission, her reaction was bittersweet once she learned she would have to continue taking chemo medication by mouth, which makes it difficult to take other medicines to lessen side effects like severe nausea.
“Still,” she said, “I was elated.”
Asked how the experience changed her, Dover said having and beating cancer “strengthened my faith, and now I have more sympathy for what someone with cancer struggles through. I will step up and encourage them the way others did for me.”
Getting the lump under her arm checked out gave her doctors a chance to diagnose her triple-negative breast cancer and recommend a regimen of chemotherapy treatments. Other common symptoms can include swelling of all or part of a breast, skin irritation or dimpling (sometimes looking like an orange peel), breast or nipple pain, nipples turning inward, redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin or a non-milk nipple discharge.
Experiencing such things does not necessarily mean a person has breast cancer. However, it is very important to talk to your healthcare team if you experience any of these symptoms so they can apply their knowledge and the tools needed to make the appropriate diagnosis.