Regular screenings are key in early cancer diagnosis news cancer blood transfusion

“I was diagnosed in July of 2014 with triple negative breast cancer, which is a rare form of breast cancer. It is the same thing that Joan Lunden was diagnosed with, the TV personality, about the same time actually,” Proctor said. “There are no hormone receptors. It is just a little more aggressive-type cancer.”

“I was told that had I not had regular mammograms, I probably would not have survived, especially if I had skipped that year,” Proctor explained. “So it was found early and I had an aggressive treatment. The size was fairly small — they said had it not been triple negative, I probably could have just gotten by with radiation, but because of the type, I had 12 rounds of chemo and 33 rounds of radiation.”

“I got a blood infection and ended up in ICU, and I had to have a transfusion.

And then when I went to a different type of chemo, I had an allergy to that after five of those,” Proctor said. “So I had to get through that, and then I finally got through. Almost instantly after the chemo stopped, I started feeling better and more alive. I think I appreciate life a whole lot more.”

“I think attitude is the best medicine. My brother and I joked around a lot. He would put my wig on top of his head and take pictures. We just made jokes and just tried to keep going,” Proctor said. “There are times that you can’t, but the support group was just unbelieveable. Even though it was hard for me to get in to work, I think that helped a lot just to try and have something else to do than just sleep and feel sorry for yourself. Now that is not to say that I never did, but you just have to try to keep going. It is hard.”

“My daughter was the best caregiver in the world,” Proctor said. “Then my brother and sister-in-law, especially my sister-in-law, were wonderful, and they took me home a few times and I stayed with them. I also want to thank my son Rick for taking me to appointments, as well as Dr. Azar and his wonderful staff.”

“Nancy Hibbs, she had breast cancer and five months after treatment, it came back,” Proctor said. “I remember thinking, ‘How do you get up five months later and go through this again? I don’t want to, but I will if I have to. I have a lot to live for.’”

“I think back in the ’90s, the survival was about six or seven months. That is what you might have expected, but now it is up to 24-28 months. Even though it is incurable, that still says a lot,” Verma said. “With diseases like multiple myeloma, people tended to live a year or less than that, and people can now live five, six, seven years with multiple myeloma. Lung cancer — again, five or six months back in the ’70s and ’80s, but now people can live up to 28 months. This is stage 4, the incurable ones. The early ones, stage 1 and 2, if they are caught early enough with all of the surgical advances, people can get cured now.”

“For healthy aging, there is different criteria for when people should be screened. It really helps to be up to date with that — such as colonoscopy, mammograms, fortified Pap smears and now there is a CT scan for long-term smokers,” Verma said. “Other than that, keeping in constant contact with your primary care physician is a good idea in case something fishy is going on, then you can get further tests so you can hopefully catch cancer in an early stage rather than when it is too late.”

“If you have lung cancer, you are going to maybe have recurring pneumonia,” Verma said. “Losing weight is something that is general with all of them, and losing their appetite. With colon cancer you might have alternating constipation, diarrhea and blood in your stools. With breast cancer is simple — you would have a breast mass. It varies, but that’s why they say to keep up with the screenings.”

“It is not the same as old cancer, which meant a death certificate right away. We have made a lot of improvements, and treatments are not as toxic as they used to be,” Verma said. “It is a multidisciplinary thing where we have multiple specialists working on you, and generally that leads to a better outcome.”