St. Mary's celebrates survivors
10/21/2013 - The Herald-Dispatch. By Jean Tarbett Hardiman.
HUNTINGTON - Cancer is a family experience, said Anne Hammack, clinical manager of the St. Mary's Breast Center.
"Everyone is affected by it in different ways," she said.
And with that in mind, St. Mary's invited two family members of breast cancer survivors to be the keynote speakers on Sunday at its annual Breast Cancer Survivor Reunion at the St. Mary's Conference Center.
Josh Waginger, son of breast cancer survivor Jeanette Waginger, and Amy Marcum, the daughter of breast cancer survivor Diane Foreman, spoke on the topic "When Mom Has Breast Cancer," sharing their thoughts on everything from how they reacted when they got the news to what it's like when the caregiver of the family suddenly needs the care.
Waginger said he talked to his Mom in October 2012. She had a bad feeling about a recent mammogram, but she hadn't yet received the results. As sons often do, he told her not to worry.
Days later, she called him at work with the news. She had Stage 1 breast cancer.
Waginger, an engineer who lives in Ironton, said his first reaction was to be analytical about every bit of information they had, followed by feeling completely overwhelmed with how his life might be affected, with a wife and three young children at home and a busy job.
When he opened up to coworkers, he found, "It's amazing how many people out there have been affected by this terrible disease," he said.
His boss and his wife told him to do what he had to do. Taking care of his mother took priority.
"I called my Mom and told her, 'No matter what you need, I'll be there. Even if it's 9 or 10 in the morning, and I'm at work. You call me. I'll leave work,' " he said.
He was with her through the process, from the first meeting with Dr. James Morgan III (while having a brother in North Carolina join in the meeting via FaceTime) to decisions about treatment and surgery.
"I remember thinking, 'This is a brave, strong woman (right after coming out of surgery),' " he said. She had no shortage of friends and family to support her, he said.
She was determined to be cancer-free in July.
"I can't be more thankful or thoughtful of this place," Waginger said of St. Mary's. "...They treated her as if she were the only one they were focused on."
Marcum said for her tightly knit family, her mother decided to break the news to several family members at once, so she sent a text.
That was Aug. 13, 2012. Her mother said she had breast cancer, and it had metastasized in her lymph nodes.
They decided on a treatment plan that included chemotherapy, then surgery, then radiation.
On Sept. 29, the day before the PATH to the Cure 5K, Marcum shaved her mother's head.
"It was completely traumatic," she said.
On Sept. 30, they participated in the PATH to the Cure, along with more than 160 "Fight Like a Girl" team members.
That was before things slowed down for the winter. Her Mom's blood count went down with the chemo, and she couldn't get out much. She didn't work as often. She couldn't go to church.
"My Mom liked to be the one to take care of people. We had a real role reversal in my family," Marcum said.
Foreman acknowledged that. Even her own mother went back to the habits of days gone by, taking care of her child.
"She was my chief cook and bottle washer," Foreman said. "She cooked, cleaned and prayed with me and was my prayer warrior. ... I come from a large family, and they've all been tremendously supportive. We're a family of faith, and we felt from the beginning that there's no mistake in a Christian's life."
It was a long, difficult winter, but they got through it and in March threw a Praise Party to celebrate Foreman's chemotherapy treatments being finished, Marcum said.
She said the support of family and her mother's friends was tremendous, at times making it difficult for her to keep up with phone calls and texts.
Breast cancer changes things for the whole family, Marcum said. They simplified Christmas. They had more family cookouts.
After about a year filled with chemo, surgery and 33 radiation treatments, the family got another text, this one on Sept. 18 of this year: "I'm in remission."