Surviving breast cancer: Rita Young’s story

Rita Young and others that have been in a battle with cancer were honorary captains during the Pink Out Game. -Staff photo by Rebekah Hurst

By Rebekah Hurst, editor

Rita Young and others that have been in a battle with cancer were honorary captains during the Pink Out Game. -Staff photo by Rebekah Hurst

Rita Young, wife to Sammy Young, mother to Brian Young and Michelle Henley, grandmother to Ben, Daniel and Hannah Young and Morgan and Jordan Henley, Coffee County Central High School teacher, Future Business Leaders of America leader and breast cancer survivor bravely shares her story in a Manchester Times interview. The diagnosis Q: When were you diagnosed with breast cancer and how was it found? A: In 2011. I always have a mammogram every year because my mother had breast cancer and had one breast removed on her 81st birthday. In the spring of 2011 I realized that I had let my yearly appointment past and that it was nearly 18 months now since my last mammogram. I called during Spring Break and expected to have to wait two-three weeks for an appointment. When I called they ask if I could come the next day. I immediately said “yes”. I received the next phone call saying that something had shown up and I needed to come back and be X-rayed again. This time they X-rayed and did an ultra sound. Next step was to see a general surgeon. He could not find it therefore he sent me to have a biopsy. I was told it was so small he might not be able to hit it. He must have because the next phone call was from the general surgeon saying it was cancer. What do we do now? Q: How did your first thought process go after hearing the news? A: I was sitting at my desk at school when my phone rang. I was five minutes from being in my car driving home for the day. The doctor told me that the results of the biopsy was that it was cancer. I remember that word just kept ringing in my head. Cancer. Cancer. Cancer. It was like I just walked into a brick wall. The doctor was very encouraging. I immediately called my husband and told him. We both then drove home and faced what was ahead of us together just as we always do. Q: What was your treatment plan? A: I was going to a general surgeon who was excellent. But after many hours of family discussion, we decided to call my friend (Deanna Lawson) because her daughter-in-law is a breast cancer specialist doctor. I talked with Dr. Laura Lawson and told her I needed someone to talk with me on a one-to-one basis and to give me information that I needed. Dr. Lawson gave me the assurance and information that I needed. We made the decision to change from my general surgeon (who was great) to Dr. Lawson because she was a breast specialist. She scheduled my surgery the week after school was out. Everything went well during surgery and now it was time to recuperate. She informed me that I was a candidate for the Mammosite treatment. This was new to me. There are five criteria that you must meet to be able to have this treatment. I met all five items. A port is placed at the point of surgery. Then I received radiation to that spot for five days, twice a day. It was a hard week but it was only for a week. No chemo was necessary. I was put on a medication for at least five years. Follow-up visits to the doctors have all been positive. Advice for others facing cancer Q: What is your advice for women who now have breast cancer? A: Keep your heads up high. There has been so many advancements in the detection and cure of breast cancer that they must always be positive. Also, I would like to say that you should never feel alone during this adventure. There are many people who are willing to talk, share, and be a part of this phase of your life. Use them. Being loved, showing love to others Q: What helped you the most during this hard time? My family was always my rock that I knew I could lean on. They were always there when I needed them. My friends and my students were always there for me also. Q: What have you learned from this experience that has changed the way you look at things now? A: There are wonderful people in this community who are always there for you when you need their help. Also, I have learned to always have faith and to look for the future. Things are always in God’s hands. Q: Has there been a positive side to this experience. The most rewarding part of all of this experience is to see what our FBLA students did when I was going through this phase of my life. After my surgery on June 1, I asked my doctor if I could go with our FBLA students and advisers to the National FBLA Leadership Conference. She agreed as long as I did not lift my luggage. I said that will not be a problem, our students will help me. Of course, they did. After our competitions were over, we had the opportunity to watch the finals in some of the contests. They choose to see what others were doing with the Community Service Project. They came running out and they were so excited. We are going to work on Breast Cancer Awareness. They wanted to help people in our area. This is where the idea came from for the first Pink Out Game in Coffee County. Teaming Up to Tackle Breast Cancer The students worked so hard all year. First, they designed the shirts to sell; wonderful response. Next was the Pink Out Game.   Football players, cheerleaders, dance team, band and the student body participated in the first Pink Out Game. It was a wonderful success. During the month of October, we sold the breast cancer cookies and raised more money. All the money raised was donated to the Tennessee Breast Cancer Coalition which allowed us to set this money aside and all of that money goes to people in Coffee County that are experiencing this road block. During the 2011 – 2012 school year, FBLA raised $4,000; during the 2102- 2013 school year, $5,000; 2013-2014, $4,500; 2014-2015, $5,000 and we are still raising money this school year. The silver lining Since the beginning of this adventure, students and advisers have worked hard for a cause. They have helped about 10 or 12 families who have experienced this problem. Some they have helped have been families that were in need of financial assistance, a CHS faculty member’s mother, students’ families that have suffered through this, a CHS faculty member’s wife and others in the community. Every penny earned has been spent to help our community. The enthusiasm of our FBLA members has been renewed each year. The community has responded every year with their wonderful response. From a brick wall to a wonderful community project, I have been able to watch a dreadful moment in my life turn in to a magical journey through the hard work of wonderful FBLA students, FBLA advisers, the CHS student body and faculty who are striving to help our community. What a journey.