Breast cancer survivor shares story


By Kaitlin Fleming, Staff Correspondent

Michelle Gattis was just 47 years old when she was diagnosed with Stage 1 Breast Cancer. After a routine mammogram, Gattis was diagnosed on June 25, 2012.

With Stage 1 Breast Cancer there are multiple treatment options, such as a lumpectomy, a single mastectomy, double (bilateral) mastectomy, hormone therapy, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

Each case of breast cancer is different and every person’s body reacts differently to different treatments.

Gattis chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy and then elected for reconstructive surgery afterward.

“The hardest part for me was seeing part of my body missing,” said Gattis.

Gattis, whose journey through the reconstructive process was long and hard, was finally finished with surgeries in February of 2013.

Because Gattis decided to undergo a bilateral mastectomy, her cancer was gone once her breasts were gone. The cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes, so she did not need any further treatments, no radiation or chemotherapy.

Gattis, like most cancer survivors, relied on her family’s help during her recovery, but seeing her family worry was difficult, she said.

“My sister was a blessing in all of this,” said Gattis. “She was my caretaker.”

Gattis’s life before cancer was carefree and she never imagined that she would be one of the eight women diagnosed with breast cancer annually. She felt she took things for granted.

The journey Gattis has been on could have gone differently without her annual checkup.

According to Gattis, she had no signs that alerted her to an issue, just a mass in her breast that showed up on a mammogram.

When asked what advice she had for anyone who might be going through the same journey she went through, Gattis said to “think positive and keep your faith. Put it in God’s hands.”

Gattis, who now has a newfound appreciation for life, also encourages everyone to check themselves and get mammograms.

Like Gattis’s cancer, cancer that is detected early and has not spread can be treated more successfully. According to current breast cancer research, breast cancer caught early has a 90 percent survival rate versus advanced and aggressive cancer having a 15 percent survival rate.

Thanks to Gattis’s cancer being caught early, she has been cancer free for seven years.

“I look at my life totally different now as material things doesn’t matter anymore. I just live day by day and try to make the best of each day. I thank God daily for letting me live and having a different purpose in life.”

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