Life After Breast Cancer

It has been 29 years since Mary Fisher was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the time of her diagnosis, she was an X-ray technologist who was doing mammograms for other women. One day, a lady who was scheduled for her mammogram missed her appointment, so Fisher and another tech decided to do their own mammograms during that appointment time. One unplanned mammogram changed her life as it showed she had breast cancer. The radiologist who worked with her reviewed it and told her that she needed to see a doctor right away.

With that information, she went to see a doctor who was also a surgeon to develop a game plan on what needed to be done. “Did I get upset? Of course, I did. Did I cry? I cried like a little baby that wanted a bottle, but I didn’t cry in front of my family.” She didn’t want her family to see her in pain and decided to remain strong.

The doctor wanted to perform a lumpectomy, but Fisher wanted them to remove the entire breast. Since she was done having children and wasn’t nursing anyone, she did not see a reason to keep it, so they removed it. She mentioned that she was fearful for other Black women because she had seen how a lot of them “had cancer and they didn’t want to do anything.” With wanting to help other women, Fisher and her sisters set up a foundation to help women get mammograms. “We didn’t have a lot of money, but we were giving mammograms to women that didn’t have any money or insurance.” They would raise the money on their own to help support these women. “Some years ago, when crawfish wasn’t so expensive, we’d have a big crawfish boil in my backyard and raise money,” she recalled. The foundation would pay the hospital a portion but the radiologist who worked there would read the mammograms at no fee.

Through the foundation, Fisher was able to help a lot of women take control of their health, get them set up through MD Anderson where they would receive treatments for breast cancer. This included her sister who found a lump in her breast six years after Fisher’s diagnosis. The doctors performed a lumpectomy, which Fisher regrets not pushing the doctors to remove her sister’s breast, but she didn’t want to argue with the doctors. Sadly, five years later, the cancer came back in the same breast. Fisher felt in her heart that if they had taken the breast off and given her chemotherapy, then maybe the outcome would have been different. Her sister’s cancer took a different turn years later when they found out the cancer had moved to her brain. Her sister ended up having radiation in her breast and her brain. It was very hard for Fisher to watch her sister go through this process because she didn’t want her to go through what she went through.

Fisher reflected on her experience with chemotherapy saying, “You get sick, you get nauseated, and stay nauseated all the time. It got to where I couldn’t eat certain foods. Even to this day, the smell of peppermint makes me nauseated.”

For every woman out there, Fisher wants women to know that there is not a particular age that breast cancer comes to you. She has seen women who were 18 and 19 end up with breast cancer. Fisher stated, “Examine your breasts. If you see the shape of your breasts changing, go to the doctor. Learn how to examine your breasts and what to look for. If you see your nipple drooping and if you see your nipple sucking in, that’s a sign right there.”

In addition, she wants people to know that men are not exempt from this as she has had some first cousins who were men that had breast cancer. “We used to just think breast cancer was for women, but it’s not, it’s for men too.”

Through it all, Fisher is blessed to have gone through everything she did because it allowed her to help other women. “I thank God for what he’s done for me because having breast cancer gave me the opportunity to help other women understand that breast cancer is not a death sentence. This is just a beginning of a new life that God has given you.”

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