The scar she wears is a personal victory sign for Goldie Homner.
Running from her chest to under her arm, the scar “forms a smile.”
It resulted from having a mastectomy on her right breast in July.
Homner heard the dreaded words — “You’ve got cancer” — and those words were “a smack in my face,” said the woman who speaks candidly about her experience.
The Union Township resident has dealt with adverse health issues in the past and she wasn’t about to let this one daunt her. She has undergone several major surgeries including quadruple heart bypass. She had two previous surgeries on her breast in which both times, a malignancy was discovered. Lumpectomies were performed on both breasts two times each.
“I had scares before,” said Homner said who discussed her experiences as part of observing National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
But this last time was different.
DIAGNOSIS — CANCER
In May, Homner had her annual mammogram. Then she received a letter telling her she needed an additional mammogram and an ultrasound. More letters came. These revealed that a biopsy was needed because the results didn’t look normal.
“I had a vacuum biopsy and a needle biopsy on July 18,” she explained. “There were two lumps at 12 o’clock and 8 o’clock.”
Immediately after having the biopsies, Homner knew something wasn’t right.
“I took it to God in prayer.”
The surgeon confirmed her suspicions.
And there was that smack.
On July 22, she was told she had cancer.
Homner said her surgeon, Dr. Majed Maalouf, recommended a total mastectomy.
She considered that a blessing of sorts.
The mastectomy was performed July 30 at Jameson Hospital and several lymph glands were also removed. A few weeks later, there was a second surgery to remove two more lymph glands, which were cancerous.
Homner has all those dates carefully documented.
The final drainage tube was removed in September.
“I’m a strong healer,” Homner noted, adding that it was through the grace of God that she faced her battle. “In this life, God gives us trials and tribulations, but this only made me stronger. Having God in your life is crucial to healing.”
She knows that well.
In an eight-month period following her open heart surgery, Homner lost her sister, brother and mother.
Her faith never wavered, though.
And she quickly credits Maalouf and his staff, and those at the Women’s Care Center of Jameson Hospital, who boosted her confidence.
As of last month, Homner was planning appointments to see an endocrinologist and radiologist to discuss future treatment.
STAND UP AND FIGHT
Support of family and friends was also vital, she pointed out, adding a breast cancer support group meets the third Thursday of every month at Eat ‘N Park. The American Cancer Society and doctors’ offices can also provide valuable information, she said.
Now, she wants to help other women who are going through the same experience.
Her advice is to always think positive and ask questions.
“Tell yourself to stand up to it and fight it, and deal with it,” Homner said.
She encourages women of all ages to perform monthly breast self-examinations, especially those where breast cancer runs in the family. In Homner’s case, an aunt had a double mastectomy.
The American Cancer Society says about 5 percent to 10 percent of breast cancer cases are thought to be hereditary. It also states that breast cancer is the second most common kind of cancer in women, and about one in eight women born today in the U.S. will get breast cancer at some point.
But there’s also good news from the organization which noted that a new report in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute estimates there are almost 14.5 million cancer survivors in the U.S. today, and that number will grow to almost 19 million by 2024.
This is due partly to improved treatments that help people with cancer live longer, and improvements in early detection that allow doctors to find cancer earlier when it is easier to treat.
“The treatment of breast cancer is multimodal and tailored to every patient,” Maalouf said. “It has a team approach.”
Meanwhile, Homner offers advice to other women.
“Do that exam. Look at your children and grandchildren and do it for them. If you find a lump, don’t diminish that. See your doctor or gynecologist.”
A sense of humor is also vital, even at times when it seems laughter is impossible.
“I am walking around with one breast,” she said.
Homner has decided not to have reconstructive surgery, which she realizes is a personal decision.
“I read about it and it’s not for me. I am proud of what I went through. You tell yourself, ‘this is what you have to do. If not, this is what you’ll wind up with.’”
Those scars are now her emblem of courage.
(Email: lhudson @ncnewsonline.com)