It is estimated one in eight women will battle breast cancer in their lifetime. At Snelson Golden Middle School, two teachers and one nurse told the Courier their stories of battling the disease.
On March 25, 2016, Victoria Allen, an ELA teacher at SGMS, went for her regular mammogram appointment. Three days later she was told she needed to come in, because her doctor had found a mass in her breast and she needed an ultrasound.
Once the ultrasound was completed, the doctor told her she had breast cancer.
“First thing I thought to do was cry,” Allen said tearfully. “Because I didn’t know what stage it was.”
After her biopsy she learned it was stage I breast cancer. She went through surgery because the cancer was aggressive, along with two different chemotherapies and radiation.
Through her treatment she never got sick and stayed positive, she said. One of the things she attributes to her positivity was the awesome support of her family, church family, and her SGMS family.
“I don’t think I ever lost my joy and came to work every day,” Allen said. “They could have told me I was stage four, terminal, and I wouldn’t have been here today.”
Allen was 61 at the time of diagnosis and is now in remission. To other women who battle the disease she said, “Don’t give up, life is precious.”
Allen was the first in her family to battle breast cancer.
Leola Lambert has worked as a nurse for SGMS for 14 years. A cancer survivor herself, she lost her sister to breast cancer.
“She was my only sister, and 18 months younger than me,” Lambert said. “She was diagnosed in December and died in March.”
She explained that her sister’s cancer was extremely aggressive, and her sister didn’t tell anyone she was battling the disease until she was in the hospital.
Lambert received an urgent call from her sister asking her to come to her sister’s home in Arizona. Lambert caught a flight that day.
“I got four days with her,” Lambert said. “She went downhill pretty quickly.”
Lambert’s sister held on until her eldest daughter and grandchild arrived from Japan. She passed away an hour after they arrived. She was 50 years old.
“Every female on my mom’s side has had some form of cancer,” Lambert said.
Melissa Ransby-Hunt has been with SGMS for more than six years as a 6th grade math and science teacher. Her father, mother, husband, and herself have either battled or succumbed to a form of cancer.
While in college her dad was diagnosed with cancer. She came home from school and spent what time she had left with him.
“When I saw him, he was withered down to nothing,” Hunt said. “I wish I would remember him the way I remembered him (when he was healthy).”
Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 72.
“She was a very strong woman,” Hunt said. “I think she found it herself and was afraid to say anything.”
She told her mother to go to the doctor and drove up to Atlanta where her mother lived to go to the appointment where the doctors would deliver the results of a biopsy. At the appointment the doctors told her mother she had breast cancer.
“So now what do we do, what’s the next step?” Hunt asked doctors.
Her mother had a partial mastectomy, removing only one breast accompanied with chemotherapy and radiation. Once a month Hunt, her husband, and son would drive up to Atlanta to visit and assist with her mother’s needs.
At the time doctors didn’t explain her mother’s cancer had traveled to her lymph nodes and other spots in her body. Her treatment plan then went to keeping the cancer from growing.
One night Hunt had a dream to get her mother’s affairs in order, and received advice from her pastor to put everything in one book.
In December, six years after the initial diagnosis, her mother told her the cancer was back and growing.
“Six years had passed and she didn’t want to fight anymore,” Hunt said.
One day her brother arrived at her mother’s home and found her unconscious. She stayed on life support about a week before her family decided to take her off. Within 24 hours, her mother died.
“That was all she wrote,” Hunt said. “I wasn’t ready.”
After the passing of her mother, she started getting regular mammograms. It was the first day of school for the 2017 school year when she got a call from her doctor.
“We need you to come in, on your mammogram we found something,” her doctor said.
The doctors found a-typical cells indicating breast cancer. From August to October surgeons removed more breast tissue for biopsies before telling her on Oct. 16 she did, indeed, have breast cancer.
“Are you kidding me?” Hunt asked herself. “We’re about to go through this battle again?”
Hunt described how hard it was to tell her son, who was going through a family cancer diagnosis for the third time in his life. Hunt had stage I breast cancer and had surgery to remove all cancerous tissue along with 30 days of radiation.
Along with Allen, Hunt came to work every day during her treatment. Although her students weren’t aware of the breast cancer diagnosis, they counted down the days with her until the last day of radiation.
Now in remission, Hunt must take a pill daily for the next five years to keep the cancer from coming back.
“I fear every time I feel pain,” Hunt said. “Knowing it could come back, that’s the hardest part.”