A Different Perspective

Jan 03, 2022 | Stories

Terri James and her family love spending time outdoors, especially at the beach. “We really relish our time there, sitting in the sand, listening to the waves,” she said. The beach is where she feels peace, and it’s the place she thinks of often while undergoing treatment for breast cancer.

Terri’s maternal grandmother and aunt both had breast cancer. So did her sister, who passed away from the disease in 2013. Because of this family history, Terri started yearly mammograms early. When it was determined her right breast had cysts, she started undergoing a mammogram and breast ultrasound every six months. “It was like clockwork, I always made sure to go to them,” she said.

It was due to this twice-yearly schedule that Terri’s breast cancer was caught early.

During her mammogram and breast ultrasound in October 2019, her doctor saw something concerning and sent Terri for a biopsy. “I remember my husband, Willie, asking me if I needed him to go,” Terri said. “I told him no, it’s probably routine, it’s probably nothing.”

It turned out to be something. Terri had stage 1 ER-positive HER2-negative breast cancer. “Those dreaded words. You have breast cancer. When they tell you…you can’t really comprehend those words,” Terri said. She couldn’t imagine having to tell her family, especially her children.

Willie, who is always quick to find the positive in something, took the reins. “I didn’t want to freak them out or scare them,” Terri said. “So Willie did the talking, because he had a more positive demeanor than I did. And they were scared, but he reassured them.”

Terri also worried about telling her sister’s children she had breast cancer. “I think I was more terrified to tell them than my own kids, because they were going to worry about losing me, too,” she said. “I think it was harder telling people than hearing the news from my doctor.”

Given her family history, Terri underwent genetic testing and was surprised to learn the breast cancer was not due to an inherited genetic mutation. “If it stops with me, I’m good with that,” she said. “I have a daughter and my sister had two daughters. I hope it ends with me.”

Terri’s treatment included surgery and radiation therapy

“I worry there are a lot of women who don’t get their yearly mammograms, which have been such a big part of my life. I just assumed everyone did, but I know that’s not true,” Terri said. “But I tell people, just go and do it. We know early detection is key.”

On the difficult days, especially the ones leading up appointments and scans, Terri turns to her family and friends for support. “My husband, he has a way more positive outlook about everything than I do,” she said. “When I do sort of drift off of the deep end, he pulls me back in and gives me a different perspective than the way I’m looking at it.”

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.