For Khristey Henderson, watching her mom Lorena Riley, of Wheelersburg, go through breast cancer was terrifying but also reconfirmed why her mom is her hero.
“My mom she had to go through chemo for breast cancer and had to have one breast removed just last year and she went right back to work as a home health aid as soon as the doctors said she could,” Henderson stated. “My mother is a great inspiration. She’s always been a hard worker, and she is still the strongest person in know.”
Riley explained that at the start of 2016, her family doctor noticed she had lost a noticeable amount of weight and ran a few tests to make sure everything was normal. Riley says she had lost approximately 20 pounds and had felt a bit nauseous but was not terribly concerned immediately. After some blood tests, Riley’s doctor sent her to have a mammogram.
“I knew there was something wrong when they came back and asked to do it again from another angle,” Riley explained.
Before the medical staff came back to tell her the results, Riley had prepared herself for the news. She did, in fact, have a lump in her right breast and would need to have it biopsied. Fear set in. Riley knew that a positive biopsy would take or change her life.
The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that in 2013 there were 230,815 women diagnosed with breast cancer. During the same year, 40,860 women were killed by breast cancer.
On February 16, 2016, Riley found out that she had stage 2b breast cancer. She was at work when she got the call.
“I had to walk outside for a minute,” Riley said amount the first moments after that call ended.
Riley first called her sister, who lived out of town. The news was more than she could handle on her own. During the same week, she had also found out that she was a diabetic, and the stress of such news was staggering.
Though Riley’s daughter sees her as a hero, Riley says it is actually her sister, husband and children that got her through the difficult time. Riley said that her children were always available to talk to her when she was struggling. They gave her strength to fight. And, her sister even moved down to help her at home.
Riley six treatments of chemotherapy from March to July of 2016. She says Dr. Tsuyoshi Inoshita had hoped to shrink the mass; however, it did not get much smaller. Riley said the worst part of that process was the white blood cell boost shot that followed. She said that shot made her bones ache and she never wanted to eat. Exactly two weeks after starting chemotherapy, Riley started losing her hair. Already feeling sick from the chemotherapy, it was difficult to also feel embarrassed of yourself.
“I thought I was the ugliest thing,” Riley commented.
Then, on August 31, 2016, Riley had a mastectomy. She has been cancer free since and was able to return to work in November after being off since March. Though she was scared to have her breast removed, Riley says she was kind of relieved to have it taken.
“I didn’t want to keep it,” she explained.
Though she has been cancer free for seven months, Riley says she is still very much recovering. Her arm and side swell. She has very little feeling in the area of the operation. Her hair is starting to grow back, and she feels stronger. Still, she deals with the fact that she has only one breast. Cancer has forever changed her by taking a significant part of her.
“I feel hideous with only one breast,” she confided.
She continues to adjust and accept what she lost in the fight, but it is still hard for her to see the loss as a sign of her strength.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1930.