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Breast cancer survivor promotes self checks

Sandra Tucker said her job kept her busy, even though it was hard to keep working through her cancer treatment. She has been a breast cancer survivor since 2009. Staff Photo: Erin Evans.

Sandra Tucker said her job kept her busy, even though it was hard to keep working through her cancer treatment. She has been a breast cancer survivor since 2009. Staff Photo: Erin Evans.

CONYERS — If anyone is a proponent of self breast exams, it’s Sandra Tucker.

Tucker, who lives in Loganville and has worked at Rockdale Medical Center’s cafeteria since 2006, owes her life to monthly self checks.

In May 2009, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, and now she is a survivor.

“I found it on my own,” said Tucker, a mother of two daughters and a son.

She said her gynecologists always have told her to practice self exams at home, so she often does in bed or in the shower.

“I felt this little lump that felt like a little button, and I was curious about it because I never felt it before,” she said.

She monitored it for another few weeks, and as it got bigger, she decided it was time to see a doctor, even though she had recently gotten a mammogram as she has done every year since she turned 40, as recommended.

Her gynecologist sent her for another mammogram and removed the lump, which was then the size of an egg, for a biopsy.

“It came back Stage 3 cancer,” Tucker said. “Emotionally, it was overwhelming. … The word cancer is very scary. When I heard it, I was devastated — nobody in my family ever had it.”

From that point on, the next few months of her life went by in a whirlwind. She had to go through testing, more surgery to remove the area around the lump and 33 radiation treatments.

“It happened so fast,” Tucker said. “There were times when I was miserable. But I had my church and friends pray. … I learned not to give up and keep fighting — you can beat this.”

During her treatment, she found comfort in meeting with other individuals who were going through the same disease she was fighting. Her doctor also recommended that she keep busy by working.

“It was hard to keep working, but my job allowed me to come in and do what I could,” Tucker said. “They were a big support; it was very nice of them.”

She said she considers herself blessed because other people she knows with cancer have not been able to work.

“Thank God I found it myself at that stage,” she said.

Now she and her daughters keep regular self checks. Tucker said her doctor has met with both of her daughters, who are 12 and 24, to explain how to conduct these checks.

“They pretty much understand what was going on and what to look for,” Tucker said. “It makes them more aware.”

She said she hopes more women will be as aware and conduct self checks and go for regular doctor visits.

“Day after day you keep hearing more and more people going through this,” Tucker said. “Mammograms are worthwhile, and I see that.”