Pike's battle against breast cancer continues

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'Seventy percent of breast cancer is not inherited.'

By Calen McKinney



She knew immediately. It was cancer.

Joyce Pike was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. But even though she is now cancer-free, she continues to battle the effects of her treatment.

Pike, 62, who was born and raised in Campbellsville, is retired and disabled. She used to work for a credit bureau, a phone company and Parker-Kalon.

Before she was diagnosed, Pike cared for her mother, who had Parkinson's disease. She died in 2007. A year later, Pike began her own medical battle.

There is no history of breast cancer in Pike's family, but she said that isn't always an indicator. Some of her other family members have battled other forms of cancer, however.

"Seventy percent of breast cancer is not inherited," she said.

October is recognized as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, geared toward educating men and women about the disease.

Pike said her battle with breast cancer began after she had a mammogram after not having one for four years. She said she was helping her mother with her illness and just hadn't done the exam.

She said she found a lump in her breast and called her gynecologist, Dr. Christine Cook at University of Louisville Women's Health.

Pike called Cook's office on a Friday, got an appointment for the following Monday, and by the next Friday, was told she had cancer.

"But I knew it was," she said. "It was hard as a rock."

When she had the mammogram, Pike said, she asked a nurse if she should be concerned about her test results. The nurse wouldn't say if she had cancer, but said, "I'm gonna tell you, I find it very worrisome."

Hearing a doctor say the word "cancer," Pike said, is life changing. Her cancer was in Stage 2B and was grade 3, she said, because of the size.

"Nothing will affect you like that," she said. "When you're told that you have cancer, you're never really the same.

"And, it's like, each day you're scared. Not really scared, but uneasy."

Cook referred Pike to surgeon Dr. Anees Chagpar in Louisville. After surgery, Pike was told there was no cancer in her lymph nodes. But three weeks later, a small spot was found and nine lymph nodes were removed.

Before having surgery, Pike said, she remembers asking God for a sign that she would be OK. She said she suddenly felt a chill.

"I was still concerned and worried, but I wasn't afraid anymore," she said. "It looked like it took that fear away."

After that surgery, Pike underwent six chemo treatments.

Since then, Pike has had effects from the medications she took while undergoing treatment and continues to take today. She has also experienced heart trouble and arthritis. In July 2012, she got a pacemaker to help regulate her heartbeat.

After her treatment, Pike began seeing a doctor every three months. She has since graduated to seeing an oncologist every six months. She also sees other doctors.

But even though she has suffered some effects of her treatment, Pike said her cancer hasn't come back.

"I'm cancer-free, thank the good Lord," she said.

Before her battle with cancer, Pike said she only took vitamins and calcium and had no medical problems.

Since she has been cancer-free, Pike and her family members, which include her husband, Roger, and daughter, Jessica, have hoped that her cancer won't return.

"I pray that it won't," she said. "I believe that it won't now, but there's times that you think about it."

Since her treatment, Pike has tried to eat healthier. During treatment, she learned she was triple hormone positive.

Pike avoids soda and red meat and tries to eat organic foods, along with fruits and vegetables and foods that are hormone and antibiotic free.

"I don't do everything like I should," she said. "You try to do what you can."

For those battling breast cancer, Pike said she recommends they pay attention to how their medication is impacting their heart.

She said she also encourages women to get mammograms and do self-exams.

"If it hurts, that's good," she said. "If it didn't hurt, that's not so good."

Pike also recommends that men and women learn about breast cancer and learn what they can do to possibly prevent it.

"Try to find out what you need to do to fight it," she said.

She said those battling cancer also need to remember to have faith and never give up their fight.

"Whatever the outcome is, he will get you through it."

Pike is quick to say what got her through her battle with cancer.

"My family and the Lord through faith," she said. "Because you have to have hope and you have to believe and you never give up."

She said her team of doctors also provided lots of support, along with prayers from her friends and those in the community.

Pike said her daughter Jessica wrote her letters during and after her treatment to keep her motivated. And she reminded her mother there were other patients, from children to the elderly, who were battling much more serious diseases.

"She would always tell me it could always be worse," Pike said.

Jessica said she will be examined early for signs of breast cancer, now that it is in her family.

"It was hard, but I tried to stay strong for her," she said.

Throughout her chemo treatments, Pike said, she lost 30 pounds and all her hair.

"That's a bad experience too," she said.

She said she remembers her hair coming out while taking a shower.

"And I screamed," she said. "You look in the mirror and you're like a pale ghost with no hair."

Since her diagnosis, Pike said, another family member has battled cancer. She said she hopes she has helped her through her battle.

"I just keep telling her, 'You cannot give up. You fight. You believe. You have faith. That's what gets you through.'"

By The Numbers

• Breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women, except for skin cancers.

• About one in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.

• About 232,340 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women this year.

• About 64,640 new cases of carcinoma in situ, the earliest form of breast cancer, will be diagnosed this year.

• About 39,620 women will die from breast cancer this year.

• Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in women, exceeded only by lung cancer.

• The chance that breast cancer will be responsible for a woman's death is about one in 36.

• Currently, there are more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States.

-American Cancer Society