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It took only a few days for her hair to fall out. But that didn't falter her positive attitude.
"I'm very blessed and grateful," she says.
Campbellsville resident Annette Thompson, 42, said she has always had regular mammograms. With fibrocystic breast disease, she said, she knew it was only a matter of time before she had a "bad" mammogram.
Thompson said the doctor who had performed her last mammogram told her to contact her family doctor. At that point, Thompson said, she became scared her mammogram wasn't normal.
"In June 2007, it was a bad one," she said.
Thompson found out she had breast cancer on her birthday, Aug. 3. Her doctor told her she had ductile carcinoma. Those words went straight over her head.
One of the nurses in the doctor's office was a member of Thompson's church, she said, and offered her comfort because her husband, Doug, hadn't come to the appointment with her. She also wrote down Thompson's diagnosis so they could research it later.
"I wasn't prepared for this," she said. "My husband looked at me and said, 'It's cancer.'"
Thompson said she remembers thinking, "Oh, Lord. What am I going to do?'"
"I thought I was going to die. You think the worst," she said. "I was scared."
Thompson decided to undergo a lumpectomy, along with other tests and a hysterectomy at the same time.
"We wanted to check it all out and really be sure," she said.
The recovery, she said, was pretty rough.
Two more surgeries followed in September, she said, followed by the start of six chemotherapy treatments in October.
She was originally told she only needed to have radiation.
"I thought, 'I can deal with that.'"
After some additional tests, doctors told Thompson the kind of cancer she had was very aggressive and she would have to undergo chemotherapy.
"I was tore up," she said.
Today, Thompson has only two more chemotherapy treatments. After that, she will begin six weeks of radiation.
Thompson says the chemotherapy treatments make her feel nauseous and fatigued.
"The fatigue is just crazy," she said. "It hit me pretty hard.
"Some days are better than others," she said. "I can't work and do this. I try to stay motivated but cancer's terrible."
On a Friday, only days after beginning chemotherapy the preceding Monday, Thompson felt her hair starting to thin.
"I didn't know it would be the first time," she said. "I just cried."
She said remembers calling the James Graham Brown Cancer Center and asking what she needed to do.
"They said, 'Honey, there's really nothing you can do. It's gonna be OK.'"
The next day, she said, she told her husband she thought she would lose her hair that day. When he asked her why she felt that way, Thompson said, she told him she could feel her hair on her pillow. It had fallen out overnight.
One of Thompson's friends is a beautician, she said, so she helped trim what was left.
"We cried for a while," she said.
She said her daughters, Amber and Jayme, wanted to do something for her, so she went with them to pick out a wig. Today, she says she doesn't wear her wig much, only to church on occasion. She says it's heavy and itches. Most of the time, Thompson says she wears a turban or toboggan.
"That's who I am. If I don't have hair, I don't have any hair."
Thompson said losing their hair can be hard for some people, but she has never really worried about her looks.
"When I saw my hair, eyebrows and eyelashes were gone, I was like, 'Wow. This is really happening.'"
Thompson said a few of her family members who have seen her without her wig or toboggan were a bit surprised.
One of her nieces, she said, wished for her to get hair for Christmas.
"I said, 'I hope I get hair for Christmas, too.'"
Thompson's hair didn't start growing back for Christmas, but it has started to grow a bit now.
Sometime after being diagnosed, Thompson was introduced to another cancer survivor. She said they shared their experiences and she felt comfort in talking to someone who had gone through what she was experiencing.
She said the woman then invited her to come to a Look Good ... Feel Better program that afternoon.
According to the American Cancer Society, the Look Good ... Feel Better program helps cancer patients cope with the appearance-related side effects of cancer treatment by teaching them beauty tips and techniques to enhance their looks and boost their self-image. The program is facilitated by licensed cosmetologists who volunteer their time.
Thompson said she remembers thinking she wasn't sure about going because she was extremely emotional and hadn't really felt up to doing much.
She ultimately decided to go to the program, however, and found much more than advice on how to treat her skin for the effects of chemotherapy - she found a support system.
Thompson said the program offered her and other cancer patients a nice atmosphere with people who were kind.
"I found out there was a network of people for support," she said. "They were very encouraging to me. There are resources there if you need them."
Thompson said the Look Good ... Feel Better staff gave her a goody bag full of information and makeup.
She said she learned how her skin would react to the chemotherapy, as well as how to pick out and wear a wig and tie scarves.
She also learned she wasn't alone.
"There are other women who have gone through this and survived," she said.
Though Thompson only attended one Look Good ... Feel Better session, she says the staff have stayed in contact with her to ask her how she is doing.
Thompson says she recommends that other female cancer survivors check out the Look Good ... Feel Better program.
"Don't be ashamed," she said. "[Survivors can] find a support network."
Thompson says she tries to keep a positive attitude and has realized she has a large support system.
"My church has been amazing," she said.
Two other members of her church, Woodlawn Christian, are also battling cancer. She says they often share their experiences and encourage each other.
"It's kind of weird," she said. "But it's been good. It's a growth process."
Thompson said it's also comforting to receive notes in the mail from those thinking of her and phone calls to check on her. Some of the people, she said, she doesn't even know.
"It's nice to know that people you don't even know are praying for you," she said. "Sometimes it takes a stranger to reach you."
More than six months after learning she had cancer, Thompson says she's eased her worrying because she knows there has to be a reason she got the disease.
"I just give it to God," she said. "There's got to be something."
Thompson says she's kept her faith since being diagnosed with cancer.
"Things like this can be detrimental to a person, to a family. That doesn't have to happen though," she said. "I give God all the glory."
- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at email@example.com.