Cheraw survivor encourages women to be screened for breast cancer
CHERAW – Judy Quick had her mammogram screenings performed annually and often practiced the recommended habit of self-breast examination. She never found any indication of lumps or abnormalities.
In April of 2013, Judy was in the yard feeding her German Shepard, Cooper, when he suddenly jumped up and pawed her violently in the chest. As she reached to rub the sore area, she felt a very large, hard lump underneath the skin of her breast.
“I thought that it was weird that he would do that,” she said. “It was the first time he had ever done that. He must have sensed that something was not right, and I am glad he did.
“I’m sure eventually I would have found the lump through my self-exam, but the key word is eventually,” continued Judy. “This is the type of cancer that progresses rapidly, so timing played a huge role in my outcome.”
Judy immediately contacted Dr. Salim Ghorra, a General Surgeon with McLeod Health Cheraw, to make an appointment.
“He is a very nice person and extremely approachable. I think highly of him as a patient, as an employee and as a friend,” said Judy who also works with Dr. Ghorra, Judy has been assisting surgeons at McLeod Health Cheraw for 39 years and the last 13 with Dr. Ghorra.
Dr. Ghorra ordered a mammogram and ultrasound. He then performed a needle biopsy in the office. The relatively pain-free procedure consists of a surgeon numbing the skin and inserting a needle to extract tissue from the breast to be tested in the pathology lab.
Dr. Ghorra sent the tissue to the lab on Friday and gave Judy the results on Monday. “Waiting for the results over the weekend was not unbearable, and I was not worried because I have tremendous faith,” said Judy.
When she received the diagnosis of breast cancer Judy decided that she would not feel sorry for herself and succumb to cancer. She would do everything she could to survive.
“My sister, Cindy, found out about a week before I did that she had breast cancer, too,” said Judy. “We were just getting over the shock of her diagnosis when I was given the very same news.”
Judy and Cindy faced battling cancer together. “We were surprised because we both had annual mammograms, there was no history of cancer in our family, and we had no physical symptoms,” explained Judy.
The good news for the sisters was that this form of cancer has a high cure rate if detected early. “According to the blood tests, we both had a type of cancer that is caused by environmental factors,” said Judy.
In need of additional treatment to remove the cancer, Dr. Ghorra referred Judy to Dr. Sreenivas Rao, an Oncologist at the McLeod Center for Cancer Treatment and Research in Florence. She said Dr. Rao told her everything to expect during her cancer treatment journey. “He drew me a diagram on a piece of paper so that I would understand what was going to happen to my body during my mastectomy and chemotherapy treatments.
“Many doctors would not take the time to do that,” said Judy. “Dr. Rao was such a huge source of support during my battle with cancer and continues to be to this day.”
Dr. Ghorra and Dr. Rao worked together to execute the best plan of action to eradicate the cancer cells from Judy’s body.
Cindy did not have to undergo chemotherapy treatments because her cancer was detected much earlier than Judy’s. “She had to undergo a mastectomy, whereas I had a mastectomy plus six rounds of chemotherapy,” said Judy.
On the subject of treatment, Judy said chemotherapy was not that bad for her. “I was actually able to continue working except on the days that I received treatment.”
Cindy would accompany Judy to Florence, and they would make the best of their time together by going out for dinner after Judy’s treatment.
“I could not have gotten through this time in my life without the support of my family. Cindy came with me to each chemotherapy session, and stayed by my side for six to seven hours straight,” recalled Judy.
“When I first started treatment, we went to Dr. Rao’s office across from the hospital, then they moved into the new Cancer Center which is so warm and inviting,” said Judy. “They do everything there to take care of you while you are receiving treatment in an effort to make you as comfortable as possible.
“They also have some of the most compassionate nurses that you will ever meet. The nurses went above and beyond for us while we were there,” said Judy.
Following her mastectomy in September 2013, Judy was out of work for one month. She says she would have come back much sooner, but Dr. Ghorra would not let her. “He wanted to make sure that I was okay,” said Judy.
Today, Judy is in remission. Every six months she has a follow-up appointment with Dr. Rao for blood work to make sure that her levels are fine.
Judy also encourages breast cancer patients she meets through her position at McLeod Health Cheraw. “I give tips on dealing with chemotherapy side effects such as eating yogurt to calm the stomach after treatments, eating molasses to boost iron that may be lost, and drinking Coca Cola to settle your stomach,” she said.
Judy is also happy to share her breast cancer experience, because she wants her story to help others who are dealing with the very same fears that she faced such a short time ago.
“I talk to women who have just begun their battle with cancer. I believe it helps them to know that standing before them is a breast cancer survivor who is doing well, so obviously, there is hope,” added Judy. “My advice to all women reading this is to get your mammograms, do your breast self-exams, and listen to your pets.”