Metastatic breast cancer can’t stop local woman

Barton to host Komen seminar

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For years, Stephanie Walker had timed her annual mammogram with her December birthday but life got in the way in 2014. When she got around to it in June, she got called for more tests before receiving devastating news.

“She called and told me I had breast cancer, but I hung up. She called back and said it again, but I said, ‘I’ve been having mammograms for years and ain’t no one seen anything in these big boobs, so I doubt it this time’ and I hung up,” Walker said with a laugh. “She called back and said, ‘Please don’t hang up.’ She explained the results and I realized it was me.”

The veteran nurse initially only shared the diagnosis with her husband.

“John actually cried,” she said of her husband who already survived cancer. “We’ve been through a lot in 19 years of being married and he said, ‘Whatever we need to do, we’ll do.’”

After being unsatisfied with her initial doctor, she found a new oncologist who ran a positron emission tomography scan and found the cancer had metastasized to her hip. Walker had a double mastectomy and went through chemotherapy, but had to stop one treatment shy because of neuropathy that caused her to fall down and struggle to work with her patients.

Yet, a scan showed no active cancer cells in her body and with monthly treatments, she continues to keep her cancer under control.

“I call myself a thriver because I am thriving. I live my life and I thrive, but I will never, ever be 100% cancer-free,” Walker said. “All the treatment in the world won’t get rid of my cancer.”

As such, Walker has become an advocate for other metastatic breast cancer thrivers, including speaking Thursday at a lunch for patients, caregivers and others at Barton College. The regional Susan G. Komen organization has partnered with Wilson Forward and other local organizations for “Understanding Stage IV: A Luncheon on Metastatic Breast Cancer.”

“Komen North Carolina Triangle to the Coast is offering a wonderful opportunity for Wilson, and throughout the planning phase, they have worked collaboratively with our local partners to offer an event that is specifically designed and reflective of the Wilson community,” said Wilson Forward Executive Director Paula Benson. “Wilson’s incidence rates, death rates and late-stage detection rates for female breast cancer are significantly higher than the state average and over the past several months, Komen has strengthened our understanding of MBC.”

Visit www.komennctc.org/wilson-mbc to register. The event is $5 and begins at 11:15 a.m. Thursday in Hardy Alumni Hall.

“I would hope this lunch gives women with metastatic breast cancer an opportunity to realize they are not alone, but there is a community of us that will pitch in and help,” Walker said. “I want to do anything I can to help bring resources to our area. I went from making a wonderful salary as an RN to none, so I can appreciate trying to figure out how to make ends meet because the bills don’t stop coming just because you stopped working.”