Editor’s note: October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women with the exception of skin cancer. An estimated 192,370 new cases will be diagnosed this year alone, according to the American Cancer Society. The following is the story of Stephenville resident Linda Peacock who believes a routine mammogram likely saved her life. Today, Peacock is an advocate for screening and early detection.
When Linda Peacock went to the hospital to have a mammogram in December 2008, it was an ordinary day. But days later, her ordinary life took an extraordinary turn when she learned that she had breast cancer.
“I didn’t have a clue that something was wrong,” she said. “It’s something you never expect. Cancer happens to other people.”
But shortly after that routine mammogram, something Peacock said she does “religiously” every year, she became that “other person.”
Two days after the mammogram, her doctor called and asked her to come back for additional testing.
At first, Peacock didn’t think much about it, but when a second diagnostic test revealed something the doctor “didn’t like,” a sonogram was ordered that same day, then a biopsy.
“That’s when I started to panic,” Peacock said.
Three days later, the doctor called again - this time with confirmation that something was indeed wrong.
“She (the doctor) told me I had cancer,” Peacock said. “My whole life was turned upside down.”
She was immediately referred to a Fort Worth oncologist and given the number of a surgeon, whom she contacted and set up appointments to meet.
It was then that Peacock said she turned to her faith and a slew and friends and family who surrounded her with love and support.
“I couldn’t have made it without them,” she said.
From the moment of her diagnosis, Peacock felt a sense of optimism, buoyed by the doctors who said her cancer was in the very early stages and that the tumor was only the size of the tip of her pinky.
“They assured me that this would turn out well,” Peacock said.
But still, the fear lingered.
“This is an emotional disease,” Peacock said. “I had moments of fear and a few pity parties, but I was determined to kick it in the seat and get on with my life.”
At only 52, Peacock had everything to live for - her husband Steve of 34 years and two adult children, daughter Stephanie, 31, and son Bryan, 28.
The family rallied around her.
“Steve said, ‘We’re going to fight this together,’” Peacock said. “He was with me the whole time - and still is.”
Although Peacock and her daughter have always had a good relationship, the disease brought the two closer.
“She was my rock,” Peacock said. “We talked every day. She could relate to what I was going through.”
Less than two weeks after her diagnosis, Peacock was at her Fort Worth oncologist learning more about the disease in her left breast. She was given two treatment options.
She could either have a lumpectomy and radiation or a mastectomy.
“I told the doctor I wanted this cancer gone,” Peacock said. “I had a double mastectomy. There was no doubt in my mind what I wanted to do.”
Two weeks later, both of her breasts were removed - and so was the cancer. A piece of the tumor was sent to a lab in California, where an oncotype test was performed. The test rates an individual’s chance of reoccurrence. Peacock learned that her chance of the cancer returning was low.
“My chance was so low that there was no need for radiation or chemotherapy,” she said. “I felt very fortunate. So many people have to go through so much more than I did.”
Peacock said recovering from her surgery was not as difficult as she expected, but taking off the bandages for the first time and looking at herself in the mirror was.
“Vanity was never a concern of mine in the beginning, but after the surgery it was hard,” she said. “Seeing myself for the first time was pretty scary. I had a pity party.”
But the party didn’t last. Peacock said she cried, then picked herself back up, determined to put cancer behind her and get on with her future.
In May, she had reconstructive surgery and today, “feels great.”
The experience has made her an advocate for early detection and she hopes to encourage women to get an annual mammogram.
“I had absolutely no symptoms,” she said. “I would never have known something was wrong if I hadn’t had a mammogram.”
Since her surgery, there has only been one thing Peacock hasn’t been able to do and that’s play golf.
“I’m hoping that will change soon,” she said. “I’m ready to play.”