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Life's more precious to cancer survivor

Drema Cox is pictured with her husband, Bob, in November 2016.

By KATE THURSTON - kthurston@newsexaminer.com

Although breast cancer was very dominant in both sides of her family, Drema Cox didn’t expect to have her annual mammogram and find out that she had it.

“I get my mammogram regularly like I am supposed to, and that is where the cancer was found. I didn’t have any symptoms, I didn’t feel any lumps, nothing. That was in August of 2016. I found out I had to have another mammogram,” Cox said. “My niece had a double mastectomy when I was told I needed to go back and have a second mammogram, it was really ironic.”

At the time, Cox was 54.

“I knew when I went back for the second mammogram there was something different. They used different paddles, they were taking measurements that they hadn’t done before, then they said the radiologist needed to read it. After it was read, they said they needed to do a biopsy.

“That was the first time I cried. I knew something was up. After the biopsy, they told me I had cancer but I was extremely lucky because it was stage zero, which I never heard of. It wasn’t invasive. I had two options, a lumpectomy with radiation for 30 days, or a mastectomy. I opted for the mastectomy. I tried to get them to take both breasts but they wouldn’t.”

Cox had her mastectomy that November.

“I had the mastectomy and it went pretty well. I had that done in November and had reconstruction done in February of 2017. Then in October I had to have the implant replaced because it shifted.”

Since, Cox continues to get her mammogram every year since then and so far so good. Cox had gene testing done to make sure it wasn’t being passed to her children. It came back negative 

“I was a lot luckier than most people and I realize that. Once you hear that big ‘C’ word, it changes your attitude on a lot of things. I feel like a hypochondriac because every little ache and pain I am worried what it is. I worry non-stop about it, it is always in the back of my mind cancer has came back or it’s somewhere else.

“Every time I have an ache or pain it really does freak me out, sometimes I have my mammogram early. It really throws you off.”

Cox encourages everyone to get a mammogram.

“Whether you feel anything or not, you need to get them. I can’t imagine what would’ve happened to me if I didn’t have mine done.”

Cox encourages her children to do self exams and to get mammogram yearly when they are of age.

“Since I was diagnosed, I do appreciate my life a lot more. I realize I am extremely lucky. I try to enjoy my children and make memories. You never know when that next appointment is going to have another diagnosis. Sometimes it is hard, you worry about it every day of your life. It’s not like chicken pox, you have it once you won’t get it again.”

Although her cancer is gone, Cox deals with taking medication daily that has strong side effects.

“One of the things I have disliked the most afterwards is the medication. I have to take an anti-hormone and the side effects of that are not fun at all. I have to continue to take the medication for another two years,” she said.

To keep her spirits up and to be there for others, Cox has joined many online support groups.

“I do belong to support groups on Facebook, there is always someone on there that has been through what you have been through.” 

About mammograms

Mammograms are probably the most important tool doctors have not only to screen for breast cancer, but also to diagnose, evaluate, and follow people who’ve had breast cancer. Safe and reasonably accurate, a mammogram is an X-ray photograph of the breast. The technique has been in use for more than 50 years.

For women at average risk, screening mammograms should be performed annually beginning at age 40 to check the breasts for any early signs of breast cancer.

If you have a higher risk of breast cancer, you and your doctor may decide that you will start screening mammograms at a younger age.

– Source: www.breastcancer.org