As any woman who has overcome breast cancer can tell you, the disease can be isolating. Thankfully, for Melissa Pucket and Christine Lenoir, who have been friends for over 20-years, said they had each other to lean on during their battle.
Here is the story of two local women who both beat breast cancer and, together, are campaigning to help and encourage all those who face it.
I remember the day I found out I had cancer like it was yesterday.
It was on a Wednesday afternoon in May of 2017 when I got a call from the radiologist whilst sitting with my youngest child, Morgan at the dentist’s office.
“You have a very aggressive form of breast cancer,” he said, “triple-negative invasive ductal cell carcinoma.”
I was a Stage 2, Grade 3 and was told I would need an Oncologist and Surgeon as soon as possible.
It had only been a few weeks since I had felt a small lump in my breast and my husband, Paul, who is a PA, talked me into getting a mammogram. The Radiologist decided a sonogram was in order and he determined that the lump was really just a fluid-filled cyst; which were all over both breasts.
As he looked over the tissue, we both noticed a weird area on the screen. He almost had me wait six months and come back for a follow-up sonogram, but something told both of us to get it biopsied just in case.
That still small voice saved my life.
Over the course of the next few months, I met with my wonderful Oncologist at the Cancer Center in Paris and my surgeon’s at Baylor, Scott and White in Plano and Baylor, Scott and White downtown. I was informed that a double mastectomy and reconstruction was the best route for me due to the aggressiveness of the cancer and my age; I was 41 at the time.
I had the first of several surgeries in June of 2017. I was determined not to let this change me or stop me from my life, so three days later I attended my husband’s family reunion.
Chemo began on August 28 at the Paris Cancer Center. The nurses there were angels and made it bearable to pull into the parking lot each time because I knew they were there to take care of me.
I received four treatments of a cocktail they called the “Red Devil” and there is a reason for that. It threw me into menopause overnight and my hair began to fall out two weeks later. By the third treatment, I was almost hairless.
A good friend and hairdresser let me, my kids, and Paul come to the shop one evening when it was closed to help shave the rest of my hair off. I wished for it to be a happy occasion, not another burden that had to be endured. On the bright side, I could be ready and out the door in no time…no hair to wash or fix.
I could not have survived the chemo without the love and support of my amazing kids, husband, family and friends. It took a village and the role of caregivers should never go unnoticed. So many people and churches were praying for me, and I felt the peace and love from those prayers every day.
More treatments followed and I was able to function better over time but the side effects left me with terrible arthritis and neuropathy in my feet and hands. Once the treatments ended my second surgery of reconstruction came in May of 2018. During the course of CT and PET scans, it was discovered that I had atypical cells on my left thyroid as well and would need to have it removed. So, in September of 2018, I had my final reconstruction and my left thyroid removed. I was finally free of any cancer cells.
The prayers, dedication, and help from my wonderful parents, siblings and a host of friends and family members will never be forgotten. My story is one of hope, faith, and joy. I will continue to get scanned over the next four years but if I remain cancer-free during that time I will be considered cured. Cancer is a journey and many receive their healing on the other side of this life.
My thoughts and prayers are with the loved ones of those who lose the battle on Earth. There is hope and I believe that a cure is coming for all those who suffer from this awful disease.
One of many friends who were there for me along my journey was Christine Lenoir. She along with other friends planned sweet ‘Home From Surgery’ signs and gifts. They also came with me and helped me get to and from my treatments; they even sat with me even while I slept through some of them.
Little did I know that I would be there to walk with Christine through a similar journey just over a year later. We both believe God was walking with us and drawing us closer for this reason.
I found my cancer one evening at the beginning of November 2018. I felt something strange high in my right breast which led me to do a better self-exam. After a couple of weeks had passed, I felt I needed to see my primary care doctor to discuss it. Really, I had a laundry list of things to speak to her about. Nothing life-threatening, but my list included this funny feeling lump in my breast.
I had just walked through one of my best friends’ cancer journeys and was somewhat familiar with the procedures. My doctor felt the same thing I did and sent me to have a mammogram. I had had my regular mammogram just six months earlier with no issues, however, this time it would be different.
Certain that we were not dealing with cancer after having a sonogram, we scheduled a biopsy for after the Thanksgiving holiday as there was not a rush.
Like Melissa, I’ll never forget the day I got “the” call. My husband, Richard had gotten a flat tire that morning, so I had taken him to work. While I was working at our family store in Paris, the call came in.
“High-grade DCIM, PR Negative, Hormone Negative, caught very early, treated as stage one,” were the words said to me on the phone.
I quickly wrote it all down and sat in my office stunned. I called my husband and then I called Mellissa. I knew Melissa could help me understand what I was facing. I picked up Richard from work and, together, we went to her to talk me through it.
After choosing and meeting with a surgeon, I was given several options; a lumpectomy, a single mastectomy, or a double mastectomy were my choices.
It was Dec. 20, 2018, when I underwent a double mastectomy. Had I chosen a lumpectomy, I would have had to go through weeks of radiation. I. JUST. CAN’T…with CANCER. It was take it all for me. Cancer has taken too many of my people. That is how I felt.
I knew I am a strong and healthy person. I knew I could endure the surgeries and I did. I was able to have reconstruction done in April of 2019. No other cancer was found in lymph nodes or other breasts. I was very fortunate to have caught my cancer so early.
I feel my story is still important just to show the importance of self-exams. It’s ok to know your body and it’s ok to listen to your thoughts and feelings of something being off. And it’s also ok if you have it checked out and it turns out to be nothing.
Keep listening…keep checking.
I was so blessed to have my family, friends and Melissa, my cancer sister, by my side. God worked to bring us together just when we needed each other most. Now, we are ready to help and encourage others. Together we will continue the fight against breast and other cancers.