The Valdosta Daily Times
Imagine receiving the devastating, life-altering news that you have cancer. Now imagine receiving that news one day after your birthday. That is exactly what happened to Dorothy Askew.
On Jan. 17, 2007, Dorothy turned 58. On Jan. 18, 2007, she was told that she had Stage Three invasive inductive carcinoma that was beginning to develop into Stage Four. Due to the severity of her diagnosis and the threat of it progressing further, less than one month later, on Feb. 12, she had her right breast removed, including 28 lymph nodes.
“It was scary going through all of those changes in my life. Losing my breast didn’t affect me, though I know it does for a lot of people. For me, I was just thankful to still be alive. I really didn’t like going through the MRI machine. I am claustrophobic and that was really scary,” said Askew.
The whirlwind of activity didn’t stop after surgery. Askew developed a staph infection, leaving her hospitalized for almost a week. She had planned to begin chemotherapy in March of that year, her treatments were delayed for more than a month after developing the infection. She received eight chemotherapy treatments, every three weeks. She also received 28 treatments of radiation.
Radiation left her with severe burns and chemotherapy was no easier. After her first treatments, while getting ready to go to church, her hair began falling out.
“I was getting ready for church. It was Easter Sunday. When I was combing my hair, I noticed it was falling out, so I stopped combing it and waited until after church. When I got back from church, I combed it and it just kept coming out. I cried and cried. I always loved hair. I would go to the beauty shop every two weeks and have my hair done before this happened,” Askew said.
When she received her diagnosis, Askew’s daughters, Chiquita McEady and Adrian Askew Brown, who were both living out of town at the time, came home to help her.
“We were always a close family, but this made us even more close. The first time they saw me, they cried. They thought for a while that I wasn’t going to make it. My oldest daughter, Chiquita, was going to school to become a certified nursing assistant, so she knew what to expect but it was hard,” said Askew.
Askew’s husband, Aaron, was also helpful throughout treatment.
“My husband was going to retire from the prison in 2011. But when I came down with cancer, he retired in 2008 so he could be home with me,” she said.
Chemotherapy made Askew, an often talkative and active lady, quiet. Prior to her diagnosis, Askew had worked for Normal Life for 30 years. After, she was no longer able to work. She explained, “The chemo made me so sick that I didn’t want to talk. I just wanted to lay down. My daughters got very upset when I did that because they were worried why I wasn’t talking. But I was praying. I prayed more than I talked. I prayed because I wanted to live to see my grandchildren and great-grandchildren.” She now has three grandchildren and one great-grand child.
God had played a large part in Askew’s life for many years prior to her diagnosis. She has been an active member at Triedstone Holiness Church since 1990. However, after receiving her diagnosis, her faith grew stronger.
“It made me stronger in God,” Askew said. “I prayed all the time. My sister is a pastor and she had people all over the world praying for me. I would receive prayer shawls from people I didn’t know. There was one that I was sent that I would sleep in every night.”
In 2009, Askew was officially considered in remission. She originally had to go for check-ups once every three months. She is now down to once every six months, and after this year, she will only go once a year until she has been cancer free for 10 years.
Askew said of her appointments, “Every time I go to the surgeon now for my appointments, he tells me, ‘You’re not sick. This is a place for sick people. Go home and enjoy your life.’”
One group that has been a huge help to Askew since her diagnosis is the Best Buddies Support Group. The group is part of the Pearlman Cancer Center and it meets once a month.
“They bring in speakers and have a lot of information to help us learn more about what we are facing,” she said.
Askew also has a word of advice to every woman.
“Get your mammograms. I went every year, and stopped for two years. In those two years is when I got it.”
While she is currently cancer-free, Askew’s life is still effected by her diagnosis every day. The removal of so many lymph nodes affected the use of her right arm and she is now required to wear a sleeve at all times. She also has to use a $2,000 machine every day to keep the swelling down.
Askew hasn’t let her diagnosis stop her from living or lessened her faith. She said, “God is good. I am still here and He has brought me a very long way.”