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Barbara Thomas credits younger sister's breast cancer in helping save her

12 WOMEN WINNING THE FIGHT

Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 2:39 AM
Last updated Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013 5:56 PM
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Ever since her younger sister was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992, Barbara Thomas did regular self-exams and had annual mammograms.

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Barbara Thomas credits her sister for saving her life. After her sister was diagnosed in 1992, Thomas started to perform self-exams.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Barbara Thomas credits her sister for saving her life. After her sister was diagnosed in 1992, Thomas started to perform self-exams.

Two years later, on her 45th birthday, Thomas discovered a lump in her left breast during a routine self-exam.

“My baby sister saved me,” she said. “By her having it, it made me really start doing the self-breast exams.”

Thomas chose to have a lumpectomy and underwent chemotherapy and 32 days of radiation.

In 1995, her sister, Darlene Abraham, died of the disease.

In September 2011, a biopsy confirmed cancer, and this time Thomas had to have a mastectomy.

She said she was dumbfounded, but resolved to keep a positive attitude.

“I said, ‘Go on and do what you’ve got to do so I can keep living,’” she said. “I made it through the left breast, and I’ll make it through the right breast.”

Because another sister also had breast cancer (she survived), Thomas underwent testing for the BRCA1 gene and tested positive.

“I have a great chance of having breast cancer return,” she said.

She will have to decide whether to have another mastectomy, even though she is cancer-free.

“Until I made a decision I’m having mammograms every six months,” she said. “I’m going to take it a step at a time.”

In the meantime, she doesn’t mind sharing her story with others.

“If somebody else has it and sees that I’m surviving, maybe they’ll look at me and say, ‘If she can do it, I can do it,’” she said.

UPCOMING EVENTS

TODAY

Saturday mammograms: Breast Health Center at Georgia Regents Medical Center; women can schedule a routine mammogram for any Saturday in October between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. by calling (706) 721-XRAY (9729); www.grhealth.org/breasthealth

WEDNESDAY

Group workshop: 1:30-3:30 p.m.; GRU Cancer Center, 1411 Laney-Walker Blvd., first floor, Community Room; a free group workshop dedicated to helping female cancer patients cope with the appearance-related side effects of chemotherapy; (706) 721-0466 to register or visit grhealth.org/classes.

THURSDAY

Breast Cancer Support Group: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. , GRU Cancer Center, 1411 Laney-Walker Blvd., first floor, Community Room; this group, which supports women and families affected by breast cancer, meets on the second Thursday of each month; (706) 721-4109; gru.edu/classes.

ABOUT BARBARA THOMAS

AGE: 64

HOMETOWN: Augusta

FAMILY: son, Cedric A. Thomas Sr., and five grandchildren

OCCUPATION: retired teacher

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT: January 1994 – lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation; September 2011 – mastectomy, reconstruction, Arimidex for five years

HER ADVICE: “Keep living. Be positive. Have a positive attitude. Keep living. I advise (others with cancer to) have faith in God,” she said.


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