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Treating breast cancer with great medicine and humor

Treating breast cancer with great medicine and humor

lisa and familyForty-six. Just 46. That’s was Lisa Smith’s age when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was early October 2016.

“I found a lump under my arm,” Lisa said. “When I went to my family doctor, he also found a lump in my chest. The next week, I had an ultrasound, and was scheduled for a biopsy. I found out I had stage 3 breast cancer. That’s how my journey began.”

Lisa quickly got an appointment with King’s Daughters oncologist Chad Tarabalous, M.D. He was recommended to her by a very trusted source: her father. “Daddy wanted me to see him. He was being treated by Dr. Tarabalous for colon cancer. Daddy and I actually had medical ports at the same time. He helped prepare me for my journey. We knew all the steps to take, and we did it - together.” Lisa says her dad’s cancer diagnosis prepared her entire family, including her brothers and sisters, for what was to come in her treatment.

Lisa also had the support of her husband Michael and three kids at home: daughter Taylor and sons Gabriel and Connor. “My family have been supporters. Just like any family, we divided things up and conquered. Michael works in the evening, and the kids helped me when I needed it.”

Lisa’s chemotherapy treatment at King’s Daughters lasted from October 2016 to April 2017. She credits a sense of humor with making her treatments a little easier. “We try to find the humor in things. When I was going through my chemo, I lost my hair - so I didn’t have to shave my legs or armpits for months. That was great,” Lisa said with a laugh. “We try to keep as lighthearted as possible. It helps.”

Lisa also found a lighthearted way to endure one of the toughest chemotherapy treatments there are: Adriamycin (doxorubicin). Breast cancer patients have another name for it: the Red Devil. It earns the name from its bright red color, and its effects. It can cause lowered white and red blood cells, increasing the risk of infection and anemia; appetite and hair loss; and nausea and vomiting. Lisa’s response to taking this very difficult treatment?

“I called it tutti frutti juice. I know it’s called ‘the red devil’ but I wasn’t putting anything in my body called that, so I gave it a new name.”

Lisa completed chemotherapy, and later had surgery to remove 30 lymph nodes, and the lump in her breast. After that, she completed radiation therapy with radiation oncologist Terry Justice, M.D., at Tri-State Regional Cancer Center in Ashland.

A Kitts Hill, Ohio, resident, Lisa works at the county recorder’s office in Lawrence County. Now a year into treatment, Lisa is continuing chemotherapy at King’s Daughters. “My cancer was an aggressive one, so I will continue on chemo for a year.

“Despite the tough parts, going through treatment for breast cancer has, in a strange way, been a blessing to us. It’s renewed my faith in people. You don’t realize how much you are loved until something like this happens. Your neighbors, your church, your family - everyone is very supportive.

“When I was first diagnosed, I never thought it was a death sentence. I’ve always had a love of butterflies. I believe I’m going to come out of this stage different and better. It goes with my favorite Bible verse: II Corinithians 5: 17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here.

“You can always look at the bad in every situation - how you take it is how it’s going to affect you. My family and I have done very well with everything. It’s just some bumps in the road.”