Profile: Breast cancer survivor, Tina Clark, of Wardell October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
It was to be a day she would never forget, and what a day on which to get the news: On Dec. 6, 2013, the day of her office Christmas party, Tina Clark received the call that she had been diagnosed with cancer.
"On Nov. 27th of last year, I received (an initial) phone call that there was a problem with my mammogram, and that I needed to contact a surgeon," recalled Tina Clark, of Wardell. I called my aunt, who had had breast cancer a few years back. Then, I called the doctor's office back and gave them the name of the surgeon I had chosen, Dr. Foley," she said. Clark works as a receptionist at the Fisher Delta Research Center, in Portageville.
"I was so confused and did not understand. I can remember my boss, Trent (Haggard), calling me, and as I answered my cell, he knew something was wrong. He asked what was wrong, and I told him I was unsure. I proceeded to tell him of the phone call I had just encountered. I tried, over the Thanksgiving holiday, as I traveled to Stuttgart, Ark., to visit my family, to put this in the back of mind and not worry. But, my family is no stranger to cancer. I have an aunt and uncle, on my mother's side, that have both had cancer and endured so much. Another aunt had breast cancer. The day before Thanksgiving is not the greatest time to get that kind of a phone call. I guess there is (never) a good time, for that matter.
Following a biopsy, the Dec. 6th follow-up call indicated that Clark's cancer was not an aggressive kind.
"But I still needed to get this taken care of," she said. "I was at work, and my coworkers knew I was waiting on that call all day. They knew by the look on my face what the outcome was. I had lots of support from then on, from them They were definitely part of my support group. I went home and shared (the latest news) with my family that afternoon. Yes, it was hard, but I remember thinking I was sure everything was going to be alright," explained Clark.
The day after Christmas, Clark had her MRI, which revealed several, small spots of cancer in one breast. Clark made the decision to undergo a bilateral mastectomy, and she said she had no regrets, calling it the easiest decision of the whole experience. "I was certain I did not want to (go through) this awful encounter again," Clark said.
"My family was going through a very difficult time. My dad has Alzheimer's and was starting to show very aggressive symptoms. (Me) and my mother are his main caretakers. (My mom) did not need a daughter to be ill at this time, and I knew she would be there for me, the whole way. I knew I had to be strong and very determined, to see us all though this. I can't say enough about my coworkers, friends, family, and the support they have given and still are (giving)," she continued.
"As my chemotherapy treatments became harder on me and my body, I was unable to help as much with my dad, and I wanted to. But we made it through, even stronger and more bonded. I was not going to let this take time from my family that needed me so much, and I wanted to be there for my dad. I have my life back to pretty much normal now, (but) he has no memory at this point. So, I would say I am in a much better position than him. I couldn't give up...not an option," Clark added.
Clark underwent the mastectomy and reconstruction surgery on Feb. 10 at Southeast Hospital in Cape Girardeau. In March, she had a port put in, with chemo treatments starting on March 24, followed by a Neulesta shot.
"I did not have to take but once," Clark recalled. "My blood count stayed up, so I did not have to do every treatment. I had chemo every other Monday. That was a bumpy road. My chemo sometimes lasted all day. I was able to work during the weeks that I was off chemo, and sometimes the day after treatment. The third and fourth day was the bummer. I always worked the day after, because I felt like I was pumped on steroids. But the next few days (after that), I would decline. I ended my chemo journey June 30th, she said. Her second phase of reconstruction took place this past Monday, and her genetic BARC test showed negative. "I will try get the last surgery for my reconstruction in before 2015. Now, I have to take Tamoxfin for 10 years. That makes me very tired and drained," Clark said.
Clark has had all of her surgeries performed at Southeast, with treatments administered at the facility's Cancer Center. "I can't say enough about their kindness and professional devotion," said Clark.
Dr. Foley was Clark's mastectomy surgeon, while Dr. Diesher has conducted the reconstruction work. Dr. Andrew Moore, a Hornersville native, serves as her oncologist.
"I am not limited. I do know my limits and, yes, they are different now. I missed out on last summer. I was not able to enjoy the things that I usually do in the summer months. But there will be more summers to come, because of the treatments I encountered. I would sometimes get very aggravated, because I would go outside, and my husband would say, 'Are you supposed to be doing that?' No, I usually wasn't, but this time, being hard-headed is what got me through," she said.
Clark added that the chemo treatments and resulting hair loss were the hardest things to accept and get past. "My advice to anyone is to get your yearly test I have a friend that has given me so much support, but does not get her yearly mammogram. She is on my list. Early detection (is key). I had mine less than a year ago, and nothing was there the year before. My cancer was detected early, and I know I lost a lot, but I gained a lot too," Clark said. "(I'm) definitely stronger, with an appreciation for things I was unsure of. If you have a friend or loved one who has breast cancer, please give them all the support and love you can. It really does mean a lot. They have to fight to win," Clark encouraged. "Support and the right mind frame (are) key. You must have will and determination. I have had such love and support through this. I thank this community so much. I have several friends who are actually going through the same thing, and I try to be there for them, as they do for me. Please don't hesitate getting those tests. Encourage and support (those fighting the disease). Be there for someone. Please show them the understanding and kindness you yourself were given. God is in control," Clark concluded.