Becky Proveaux is grateful she always made time for her annual mammogram because it probably saved her life.
“They found it through the routine mammogram. It wasn’t even a lump yet,” said Proveaux, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2016. “It was really early stage 1.”
The tumor was aggressive and was a triple-negative, meaning that it lacked the three receptors that respond to hormonal therapy treatments. Triple-negatives represent about 15 to 20 percent of breast cancers, according to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
What made this unusual for Proveaux is that triple-negatives are typically found in younger women and African-American women. Proveaux is Caucasian and found out she had cancer at the age of 65. She retired from Savannah River Nuclear Solutions after 35 years of service, about the same time as her diagnosis.
Hearing the diagnosis was a shock.
“Hearing those words, that you have a small breast cancer kind of puts fear in you, but once I got over that, I said, ‘It is what it is so what are we going to do?’” she said. “I’m not the type of person to sit around and wring my hands.”
And they went after it with a lumpectomy, eight rounds of aggressive chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. Since the cancer was discovered early, it hadn’t spread to any of her lymph nodes or any other part of her body. Chemo was hard, but she took one day at a time during treatment.
“I did lose my hair, and I had a bald head, but my husband said ‘I love bald or with hair,’” she said.
Having the support of her family and friends made a huge difference for her as well. When she rang the bell after her last chemotherapy treatment, many of her co-workers, family and friends were there to celebrate with her.
“It was wonderful, knowing that it was all behind you,” she said.
Recent scans did not show any cancer.
Now Proveaux said she is enjoying her retirement. She encourages women to get their annual mammogram, and for those going through cancer, she gives a nugget of hope.
“It is not the end of the world, and you can get through it. There were many days I could hardly walk from the bedroom to the kitchen, but with the good attitude I had, I knew it would get better and those days would be over, and everything would get back to normal,” she said.