CTCA: My Journey with Triple-Negative Breast Cancer
By Viola Jones
Viola Jones with husband Nathan during Hawaii trip
I live in Olathe, KS and I’ve had annual mammograms since I was 40 years old. In February 2014, at age 58, I was told by the pathologists at my local imaging center that something didn’t look right on my mammogram: my scans were abnormal. So, after seeing my gynecologist and then my primary care physician for further evaluation, I was scheduled for two biopsies and an ultrasound at the hospital near our home. My primary care physician then scheduled me an appointment with an oncologist, who told me that the biopsy tested positive for breast cancer in my right breast.
I was surprised because I couldn’t see it or feel it, and there is no history of cancer in my family. She then explained that I had triple-negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive subtype of the disease that progresses rapidly and is common among African American women. She told me that the recommended treatment for this type of cancer included chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, and that I could choose the order in which I wanted to receive them, but I needed to make a decision quickly. I met with another oncologist for a second opinion and received the same advice.
Seeking a third opinion
When I was initially diagnosed, my husband, Nathan, wanted me to go to Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) for a consultation, but I wasn’t ready. I just wasn’t sure about traveling four hours one way each time for treatments.
While I was being seen at one of the local hospitals, I started wondering whether I should seek a third opinion. That’s when I decided to call CTCA. When I found out my insurance was accepted, I decided to go for an initial consultation.
The moment my husband and I arrived at CTCA, we felt special, like they were rolling out the red carpet for us. Someone came to take our luggage from the car and brought it to our room. I was placed in a wheelchair. Our car was parked. There was nothing extra for us to think about. I didn’t feel like a cancer patient. I was treated as though I were a member of their family.
Treatment at home and at CTCA
Arriving at CTCA in Tulsa, I underwent a lumpectomy followed by 10 cycles of chemotherapy. We traveled for each infusion, and I was home for a few weeks between treatments. Then, when I needed radiation, I was able to have my treatments at my local hospital under the care of my radiation oncologist. Now, I return to CTCA once a year for follow-up visits.
I was fortunate to have the best caregiver in the world: my husband. He came to all of my appointments, and he kept a journal of all my medications and vital sign measurements. He knew what to do when I experienced different side effects, and he knew what information to record so we could report back to the doctor at my next appointment. He gave me my 10 pills in the morning, my 10 pills at night and my protein shake during the day. He was there for me, no matter what I needed – and CTCA was there for him. During my appointments, he spent time with the Pastoral Care team, who helped us start a cancer ministry at our church. We will celebrate our 34th wedding anniversary next month.
Getting back to life
I am recovering very well from my treatments. The neuropathy is fading and my energy is returning. I am able to go the gym and work out, as well as travel and spend time with our 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. In fact, last year, after my treatment was complete, I was able to travel to Hawaii for the birth of my 12th grandchild and stay there for six weeks! It was an amazing, celebratory trip.
Several years ago, I retired from my job as an electronic technician with Honeywell and began a new chapter in my life. Today, I have returned to that chapter, doing all of the activities I was before cancer treatment: singing with our church, facilitating a prayer conference call every Wednesday morning, serving as president of a local Ministers Wives & Widows Ministry, and supporting youth in our community, just to name a few. I also returned to college and obtained a bachelor’s degree in Christian counseling; currently, I am pursuing my master’s degree.
I also enjoy volunteering with the Cancer Fighters® Care Net program at CTCA. It is great to be able to pass on what I have learned to other cancer patients, of which my main message is to obtain as many opinions as you need and to take care of yourself. It’s your body and you get to decide, no matter what anyone tells you.
I’ve been blessed, and I will always tell everyone to consider CTCA. I don’t know how I would have gotten through those months of treatment without the people looking after me there as if I were a member of their family.
To learn more about CTCA, visit cancercenter.com/tulsa
No case is typical. You should not expect to experience these results.