|Survivor Mimi Weaver looks back on breast cancer battle|
|Written by Candie Salyards, Haxtun-Fleming Herald|
If there was one thing Mimi Weaver could tell people following her diagnosis of cancer, it would be to trust your instincts. If she hadn’t, this story could possibly be much different.
Mimi found a lump in her breast in 2006 but at first didn’t give it much thought and chalked it up to the idea that she was “lumpy” in that area anyway. It didn’t hurt, didn’t grow and she felt fine. Top it off, she had mammograms each year like clockwork and none of them ever showed signs of breast cancer.
In March 2007, Mimi went for a film mammogram and a week later received word that all was fine, just as her previous results had been. Plans were to have a mammogram in another year.
But something didn’t quite sit right.
Two months later, Mimi found herself at the Haxtun Family Medicine Center for a routine appointment with Dr. Lila Statz about refilling some prescriptions. It was then that she mentioned the small lump on her breast to the doctor.
Statz told Mimi she wanted her to have an ultrasound of the area as well as a spot compression just to be safe. Better safe than sorry the two decided.
“I am very thankful she took that initiative,” Mimi said almost four years after that day in the doctor’s office. “Who knows what would have happened had I waited another year.”
After following up with the tests recommended by Dr. Statz, Mimi was in a room with a radiologist who told her that the lump was “highly suspicious” and that she feared it was cancer. Several days later, Statz spoke to Mimi and said the possibility of the lump being cancerous was high and advised her to get it taken care of as soon as possible.
Several days later, Mimi met with a surgeon in Fort Collins at 2 p.m. for a consultation and two hours later was in surgery to remove the small lump on her breast. She told the surgeon she didn’t want to mess with biopsies, she just wanted it out.
“I told them to take what they had to, at this point in my life it was whatever it takes to keep me healthy,” Mimi said.
Mimi made it through surgery OK, and while in recovery the surgeon told her husband, Terry, the lump was suspicious and a second surgery was probably necessary. Mimi later explained the surgeon thought he got most of the lump but wanted a second surgery to get larger, clearer margins.
It was a few days later, while still at home recovering from surgery, when the surgeon called to tell Mimi the news that had already been predicted. At the age of 46, Mimi did, in fact, have breast cancer.
“I sat on the bed and had a good cry,” Mimi wrote in a journal after hearing the news. “I wondered why this happened to me, and the possibility of dying became very real,” she wrote.
A month after the first surgery, Mimi was back in Ft. Collins for round two, a partial mastectomy, or a radical lumpectomy as some call it. It was during this time that the doctor said he got plenty of clear tissue and the cancer had not spread to lymph nodes.
“Great news,” Mimi wrote in her journal.
One day after the second surgery, Mimi met with an oncologist to talk about future treatments, and he told Mimi that on top of the two surgeries, she would also need chemotherapy and radiation.
“My treatments were more precautionary instead of necessary,” Mimi said.
Upon hearing she would need chemo and radiation, Mimi talked with a fellow co-worker and friend who had also battled breast cancer. The friend told her of a treatment called Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy.
IMRT was still new and was being used as experimental treatment but was far less challenging on the body. Instead of one-day treatments for six weeks, the IMRT was two-day treatments for five days.
Mimi talked to her oncologist about IMRT and he explained she would have to meet all the right study factors to be accepted into the treatment. After days of waiting, Mimi received word that she fit the IMRT factors.
Hearing that she was accepted for IMRT treatment was exciting news for Mimi, but it was short lived. Mimi discovered her insurance would not pay for IMRT. So, with help and letters of support from her doctors, Mimi challenged the first denial and was successful.
Almost four months after mentioning the lump to her family doctor, Mimi started radiation treatments at a facility on the Front Range. Her family lived in the Denver area, and she was able to stay with them during the treatments.
Shortly after completing the IMRT, Mimi went back to her oncologist to start chemotherapy.
“I’ve been both dreading this day and looking forward to it,” Mimi wrote in her journal. “I know that I have to complete this step of my treatment to get rid of the cancer, but I’m afraid of all the side effects and the process itself.”
After a few setbacks due to reactions to some of the medications, Mimi underwent four sets of chemo treatments. She explained that usually patients have to have six rounds, but her positive results from the first four chemo treatments impressed doctors enough that they stopped short of the last two.
One obstacle Mimi thought she was prepared for during the chemo treatments hit her much harder than she thought. Mimi said she didn’t think losing her hair would be a big deal, but it was.
“I thought my hair falling out wouldn’t bother me much, but it did,” she journaled. “Oh well. If that’s the price to pay, I’ll gladly pay it.”
To cover the hair loss, Mimi said she spent a day with her family shopping for a wig, a time she cherishes. On days she didn’t wear a wig, Mimi would wear hats and scarves. One highlight she said in her journal was, “I don’t have to fix my hair in the morning.”
Unbeknownst to Mimi, one day her co-workers had planned a hat and scarf day to show their support and lift her spirits, and she now laughs because that day Mimi wore her wig to work. “Smile,” she wrote in her journal.
Now, almost four years since hearing the dreadful words of cancer, Mimi still has regular checkups with her doctors and takes medication daily.
“It’s been almost four years now and I am in remission. I feel that the steps I took to rid myself of this disease have given me the piece of mind knowing that I have done everything I could,” Mimi recently wrote. “I can’t worry about what might happen and if I keep up with routine doctor appointments, tests, stay on medication and try to live a healthier, less stressful lifestyle, I can improve my odds of avoiding a recurrence.”
Mimi credits much of her success in battling cancer to her family, friends and co-workers for their support. She said keeping her job and having a reason to get up every day gave her reason and hope.
She also is thankful for the IMRT treatments. Mimi realizes it is money, support and research from organizations like Relay for Life that help find new successful avenues, such as the IMRT, for cancer treatments.
This year, the Phillips County Relay for Life is set for June 10-11 at the Phillips County Courthouse Square, and Mimi plans to be there. She was on a local team two years ago and endured the two-day event, knowing it was for a worthy cause.
As a survivor, Mimi said she feels a strong bond with others at Relay who have faced the same obstacles she has.
“It is so neat to see and meet other survivors and their families,” she said.
For more information on this year’s Relay for Life, contact Doug Kamery at 970-466-2119 or Steve Young at 970-466-2133. For team information, contact Carl Wilcox at 970-774-6633 or Gary Krumm at 970-854-3864.