By Ella Mae Harris
In March, 2004, I went for my annual physical and mammogram in Dothan, just as I had done for the last 25 years. I had not noticed any problem at all, but when the radiologist said, "Mrs. Harris, you have an area that we can not ignore" I sat up and listened to the doctor carefully. He advised that I have a stereotactic biopsy the following week. It was a long week, but all the time I felt that it was going to be a normal result.
I had the biopsy and then a few days later, I learned that the tumor was malignant. Some of you know the feeling....shock, scared, and confused as to what was to happen next. Within a few days, the site of the biopsy began to turn into an infectious lesion and an antibiotic was prescribed. During this time, I made an appointment at the University of Alabama Medical Facility in Birmingham for further consultation. When the doctors saw the lesion on my right breast they said that I had a staff infection. My antibiotic was changed and we proceeded to decide on treatment of the tumor.
The doctors at UAB did their own testing and mammograms and upon reviewing them, they found that I had some spots in my left breast also! After another biopsy, I was told that those areas were malignant. It was proven that my cancer of the left side had been there for 2 years, undiagnosed.
I had never missed a yearly mammogram and it was really hard to realize that the cancer had been there that long with no one seeing those spots. I was devastated. In early May I went back to UAB for bi-lateral breast lumpectomies and sentinel lymph node (plus one more) removal.
Thankfully, there was no invasion into the lymph system, but there was not a "clean margin" on the tissue from the right breast. I went home to heal before I was to return for a re-excision. After a few days at home, I suffered terrible pain in the incision under my arm. Lane (my husband) carried me back to Birmingham and a huge abscess was drained and proved to be a full blown staff infection again...remnants of the first infection from the biopsy.
This problem caused my second surgery to be postponed until the infection was gone from my arm. For 5 weeks, Home Health Care and my loving Lane treated and packed the incision.
Finally in July I went back for the re-excision with tentative plans for treatment with 7 weeks of radiation to follow. We stayed in Birmingham at the Hope Lodge sponsored by the American Cancer Society and it was one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. We met others who also had cancer, and we lived with and among them for our 7 weeks of radiation therapy. We all had the common bond of this terrible disease and we drew strength from each other.
The facility was wonderful and housed 33 families. The only stipulation for staying there at no charge was that you had to be a cancer patient. It was a home environment and was such a comfort to us to visit with people who knew how others felt without saying a word.
August 6, 2004, I began radiation therapy and we finished on September 19, after seven weeks….Homecoming was wonderful.
I have been on an uphill journey with pain in my joints from the radiation and the medication to keep me cancer free, and now I feel I am a real person again! I had bi-lateral knee replacements last October and it has been a great success. My Life is so full with the wonderful opportunities that God has given me. I find that everyday offers a chance to reach out and try to be what my Mother and Daddy always prayed for....that we children be what God wants us to be.
I have 2 fantastic sons... T.G. and Max Harkrider. T.G. is employed with the Jackson County Health Department as Director of the Environmental Department and Max is the Athletic Director and Baseball Coach at Malone High School.
Max is the younger of the two and when he was a little fellow....probably in the 2nd grade, his teacher asked the class to draw a picture of their favorite sport. Max loved football, so he brought home a detailed picture of a football field with the scoreboard, the crowds, the whole concept of a football game in progress.
He proudly showed his Dad his handiwork and Tommy said..."My Max, this is really good...you have the yard lines drawn, the goal posts, the crowds and the scoreboard. But....I’m a little concerned about the score you have up here. You have Marianna 21 and Auburn 7. I am wondering just why you have Marianna beating Auburn...we know that you love Auburn and it is your favorite team and I just would like to know why Auburn is losing". Max looked up at Tommy and said, "Well, Daddy.....the ball game is not over yet!!"
Maybe you sometimes feel that you are losing in your game of life...that your troubles are just more that you can take....that your pain is too bad and your situations are beyond your control. I am here to tell you that no matter how low you get, just remember that "the ballgame is not over".
I have a wonderful family...I could not have made it through the past 4 years if it had not been for them...especially my wonderful husband, Lane. He has been so attentive to every need and all the while, emotions that I felt....so did he. I thank God every day for him, my sons, my daughter-in-law Amanda, my siblings, and for the days I have ahead of me. I will strive to do all I can to help anyone in anyway that I can....You see, my ballgame is not yet over….. and I plan to win this one!!!