When Tracy Fuqua was just 33 years-old, she scratched an itch, felt a lump and experienced a fluke discovery that lead to a whirlwind breast cancer diagnosis and started the fight of her life.
“This was totally out of the blue and unexpected,” she recalled. “I scratched an itch and felt a lump. Of course, since it was Thanksgiving, my doctor’s office was closed, but the very next day I called and made an appointment.”
Tracy’s OB/GYN sent her to Rhonda Brake Shreiner Women’s Center for imaging, and eventually a biopsy. Then came the earth-shattering diagnosis; the mother of two had stage two breast cancer.
That’s when she met Dr. Takelya Williams of Summit Breast Care Services, the first fellowship trained breast surgeon in the area.
“She was really confident, she told me, ‘we can fight this’. She never has made me feel like a patient; she makes me feel like a person. She told me she will do everything in her power to make sure I’m here for my kids,” Tracy remembers.
Tracy underwent chemotherapy and in May 16 of 2018, Dr. Williams operated on Tracy, performing a double mastectomy, successfully removing the remnants of the cancer. A full year later, Dr. Williams says Tracy continues to live life cancer-free.
“Tracy is in complete remission meaning all of her post-operative tests, physical exams and scans show no signs of cancer,” she explained. “She has completed all of the adjuncts to surgery to help decrease her risk of recurrence of breast cancer.”
Now, celebrating one-year cancer-free, the mother of two, has started a new fight, one to convince other women to stop putting off self-care; to perform self-breast-exams and to be vigilant with appointments and screenings.
“God only gives you what you can handle. This is my chance to help others. I feel like this is maybe why God put this on me, so I can raise awareness for other women,” she said.
She said the demands of motherhood can come at a lapse in self-care, and she found herself too, putting things off, including self-breast exams because breast cancer wasn’t something she considered an immediate threat.
“For a lot of women, we don’t think it’s anything to worry about until our 40s,” she explained.
Dr. Williams attributes better outcomes related to breast cancer to better awareness among women to perform self-exams and to get regular mammograms. She wants all women to know the disease can affect young and older women, so regular conversations with your team of medical professionals to determine risk factors, and which screenings are appropriate, are ones that could save lives.
“It is imperative that women get annual breast imaging with a mammogram as this helps us find cancers at an earlier stage, and increases the overall survival rates,” she said. “For women not of the age to get mammograms, it is so important to do regular self-breast exams on a monthly basis.”
For those women with a history of breast of other cancers, genetic testing is an option to help guide decisions on frequency of screenings. For more information on Summit Breast Care Services, please visit SummitHealth.org/BreastCare.