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If it weren’t for the fact that Teresa Boone wears a do-rag, you might not know she has cancer. Certainly, you wouldn’t know that this is Teresa’s third time losing her hair since her first cancer diagnosis in 2003 or that at one point, she was once given very little hope by her doctor.
In 2003, Boone was diagnosed with breast cancer following a lumpectomy where 14 lymph nodes were removed. Half of one of the lymph nodes showed cancer, so she underwent chemotherapy from August to November. The week of Thanksgiving, she started radiation.
“You go through a lot of scans,” Boone explains, “I was seeing the surgeon and oncologist back-to-back for a while. Through that, my oncologist noticed I had (a spot) in my neck.”
“(My oncologist and I) weren’t going to worry about it, but my surgeon said, ‘We’re not going to not worry about. We’re going to find out what’s going on with that.’”
That turned out to be thyroid cancer. In February 2004, a month after finishing radiation for breast cancer, Boone had her thyroid removed.
For the next eight years, her check-ups were positive. In 2012, however, Boone was just starting a new job when she experienced severe arm pain.
“I thought I’d strained my arm. When you have those lymph nodes removed, you can have inflammation, a flare-up,” she said. Even though she assumed it was an arm strain, Boone still followed up with the doctor.
An x-ray and MRI showed lesions on her clavicle around her shoulder area. The PET scan confirmed that it was cancer. After radiation, Teresa saw her oncologist again.
He said, “I have good news and bad news. The good news is that it’s no longer in that clavicle. The bad news is that it’s moving.”
“He didn’t have a lot of hope. He basically said, ‘That was it,’” Boone says.
She sought a second opinion from Dr. Daniel Cameron at MCI. Cameron put her on Xelodia and recommended that she receive injections to treat her cancer. Because she would be treated at Monroe County Hospital, she also sought the opinion of Dr. Jeffrey George, who was to oversee her treatment in Monroeville.
His outlook was the most hopeful. Boone soon began both Xelodia, the chemo pill, and IV radiation therapy.
In September 2013, Boone sustained an injury at work after a fall. “I ended up being out of work for eight weeks. I was bruised very badly; it didn’t damage any areas of my cancer. (The cancer) had pretty much taken over. It started coming down on my sternum, mandible, pelvic area,” she says.
By her third treatment, she knew she wasn’t bouncing back. “I have numbness in my hips and legs, and I can’t stop crying,” she says she told the nurse. “It’s sort of scary when you have cancer in a lot of places (to feel like you’re not getting better).” At the nurse’s suggestion, they increased her dosages.
For the next several months and treatments, Boone persevered through her husband’s debilitating flu and intense work schedule. She, too, continued to work while battling exhaustion and the side effects from her treatment.
“You lose your nails when going through some of these treatments. It was winter and my fingers would crack.… (The medicines) make you have cracked and peeling skin,” she says.
It was around Thanksgiving when she went on to treatment five. A scan was ordered, and Boone and her family had something to be truly thankful for. The scan was clear and subsequent treatments would handle microscopic cell cleanup.
“It was a blessing to know that the treatment was working especially after not being given any hope,” she recalls. “We had hope.”
After treatment eight, Boone got the news that she’d been waiting for, and on the last treatment, she says, “I had family and church family with signs and balloons. I came home with a celebration that day. I was healed. I thank the Lord for that because I didn’t have any hope that I would make it, but I never wanted to believe that.”
For the next 15 months, she was cancer free.
“It came back in April 2015 on my liver, Stage IV,” she says. In August 2015, she had another port put in; however, a scan in October showed more lesions on her organs. The treatments weren’t helping; the lesions were spreading.
Dr. Cameron decided to try the chemo pill since it had worked so well before. Within months, Teresa’s liver, which he’d once described as looking like a piece of Swiss cheese with so many cancerous spots, only had two.
In July 2016, Boone learned that the cancer on her mandible, sternum and pelvic area had returned and began battling both cancers at once.
Soon, she will get another scan to see where they are with her prognosis and how they should proceed with her treatments.
“I hope we’re close to beating Stage IV,” she says. “I’m currently not in any pain. The Lord has blessed me. I get to be around my family (at work). I have such a good support group; I get to see at least five of my eight grandkids through the week or every day.”
“I don’t let (cancer) bother me anymore because in 2012, I didn’t see any hope. It’s 2016, and I’m still here. Now, I don’t get depressed and upset and worried about the scans anymore. When it’s my time, it’s my time.”
For now, Boone says, “I feel like the Lord is leaving me here to be able to help other people.”
She will participate in the annual Mitchell Cancer Institute’s Think Pink Tea fashion show on Thursday, October 6. The Think Pink Tea is an event designed to raise awareness for and to show support for breast cancer survivors.
She says, “This is kind of like a ministry. You share and you encourage. Sometimes people forget that people going through cancer still need to be involved. You get to be around people who experience what you experience. If I can, I want to encourage someone to know there’s hope. There’s so much hope.”
Think Pink Tea takes place October 6, 2016, at the Alabama Cruise Terminal from 4-6 p.m. The fashion show starts at 4:30 p.m.
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