- Cullman, Alabama

October 15, 2012

Cancer Survivor: Cathy James

By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times

CULLMAN — Both her great-grandmother and her mother had breast cancer in their 50s. Director of Nursing Woodland Village HealthCare Center, Cathy James, was only 35 when her mother, Marcelle Brannon, was diagnosed. She died in 1998.

Since she had frequent bouts with fibroid cysts, James kept up with her own mammograms religiously, going every six months toward the end. At the age of 38, she started experiencing tenderness and having a discharge.

She tried cutting out all caffeine, but nothing changed.

Her OB/GYN sent her to a surgeon, who recommended a mastectomy, due to the fact that her cyst's were too numerous to safely biopsy, and be sure that all were checked and clear.

She remembers  the surgeon saying the decision is not really “if” but “when” because of the type cells that were present on biopsy. He had been the surgeon with her mother and knew that even with her mammograms being done every six months, she had her six-month mammogram and biopsy within days of the definitive mammogram, which showed that the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes.

Cathy was shocked at his recommendation.

She went home to think, and to pray. She talked it over at length with her husband, Rodney. “My fear was that the insurance wouldn’t approve it. My prayer was that if I left it in Gods hands, it would be approved, and it was, the very first time.”

“I was resolved, and in looking back, I know that it was the right decision,” she said.

That was in the year 2000. Cathy had no treatments because she had no cancer. Her course of action was to be pro-active, reducing her chances of having breast cancer down the road at some point.

“I battled with it from 1998 to 2000, but now I have peace of mind about it,” she smiled.

Rodney was her rock of Gibraltar. “He was so supportive. We came to the decision together; it was a relief to him, as well, because every time I had one of those fibroid cysts we would both have to wait and worry about the test results, and because he was right there when we took care of my mother, he knew what might happen.”

“I’d recommend that anyone diagnosed with cancer have a bi-lateral,” she said candidly. “It you have cancer in one breast, the chances increase and the worry is still there for the other breast .”

She was bothered by some of the cosmetic issues, like the implants, and was off work for six weeks, but other than that, she was glad that it was over, and that she now had peace of mind about it.

“I took my whole family into consideration in my decision,” she explained. “I have a special-needs child, and I have to be here to care for her. I thank God that I had the chance to make the decision prior to a diagnosis. I know this was the right decision.”

As for Rodney, the decision was easy for him. His only concern was that Cathy would have to go through the surgery and then the pain during the recovery period. He said that he worried each time she had to go to the doctor that the news would be bad and he knew that even when she did not talk about the possibilities of the cancer, she had to have a fear that one day it would be her turn to hear the cancer word. "I feel that she made the right decision and that all we have gone through has strengthened us as a couple," he said. "It makes you look at what is really important in life and a marriage."