Breast cancer survivor offers encouragement
Ryan Poston has completed her treatment for breast cancer, but she continues to participate in a breast cancer support group in hopes of offering encouragement to others currently on that journey. Her advice for those battling the dreaded disease or who have recently got the cancer diagnosis is to reach out for support from family and friends, look for a support group and Google for cancer freebies. That’s what she did when diagnosed with breast cancer in January of 2013.
Ryan works in coding education and compliance with Carolinas Medical Alliance. She was the first director and helped organize Lighthouse Ministries about 20 years ago. Several years later, she started Darlington Free Medical Clinic. She is married to Douglas, an accountant, and they have a daughter, Christina, 27, son, David, 26, and a five year-old grandson who resides in Connecticut. Following a routine mammogram, invasive ductal carcinoma was detected in Ryan’s right breast.
Shortly after, Dr. Amy Murrell performed a lumpectomy on Jan. 27, 2013. Lymph nodes were removed and some cells were discovered. A treatment plan, based on Her2 positive, was implemented which included chemotherapy and radiation. She finished chemo in August and completed 33 treatments of radiation in September, 2013. She took Herceptin therapy through February of 2014.
Since then she has had two normal mammograms. She continues to take medication to suppress hormones, which she says “makes you feel old.” Like many on chemo, Ryan lost her hair. “That was easy for me, because I wear scarves all the time” she said, adding, she covered her head with them. She does remember looking in the mirror, thinking “who is that person.” Ryan says she had the benefit of working in the healthcare industry, and was fortunate that she was able to work during her treatment.
Her co-workers were very supportive and even held a “hat day” for her and another co-worker fighting cancer. “There were so many people who reached out to me and that makes such a difference,” she noted. The hardest part of the cancer battle for her was feeling guilty that her husband had to do so much. Two years before, he lost his mother, who lived with them, to colon cancer.
After Ryan’s diagnosis, he supported her by going to all her treatments and doctor appointments, doing the laundry, grocery shopping and all the other household chores. He also tended to Ryan’s mentally ill sister. “He is a great care giver and I know it is hard. He never complained,” she commented. Ryan said it helped her to find out as much as she could about her cancer and treatment, and she valued and appreciated the support from others.
She also strongly recommends a support group because there is comfort in sharing with others who understand what you are going through, and learning from their experiences. “You don’t have to talk if you don’t feel comfortable, but you can learn so much,” she stressed. Cancer is a huge financial burden, Ryan said and recommends searching online for resources and “freebies.” There are lots of things available to cancer patients, she discovered.
She found a breast cancer retreat in Vermont and a Little Pink House of Hope retreat in the Outer Banks, N.C. Both were free – she only had to pay her transportation. “I learned so much,” she said. Ryan encourages women to get their yearly mammograms and not to postpone because they may be afraid.