Valdosta Daily Times

October 2, 2012

McGraw demands doctors check for cancer

Jason Schaefer
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — When Safe Storage manager Polly McGraw went in for a lump on her breast in 2004, she was told that it was likely an infection and not cancer because of her age.

But McGraw, then 36, knew something was wrong.

Her grandmother and mother had both been diagnosed with breast cancer, and in spite of the diagnosis, she demanded a mammogram.

“They refused to give me one,” McGraw said. “They kept giving me antibiotics, and kept telling me cancer doesn’t hurt, and I finally just got irate with them.”

Cancer does hurt, McGraw said, and cancer knows no age. Doctors finally gave her the mammogram and diagnosed her with breast cancer Feb. 24. The following month, she had a complete mastectomy of her left breast.

McGraw was prescribed six months of chemo and 36 months of radiation therapy. She went completely bald, and could barely get out of bed most days. Luckily, she was working out of her home as an office assistant for her parents.

“It worked out really good,” McGraw said. “When I was able to work, I went to work. When I wasn’t, my husband took care of everything.”

McGraw is in remission, but accepting the loss of one of her breasts was difficult, she said. And after a while, she decided to have cosmetic surgery to restore the area.

“I feel better now,” McGraw said. “There are still a lot of scars inside and outside. It’s something you never forget no matter how many years go by. I feel more whole because I don’t have to wear a fake bra and a fake breast anymore. I feel pretty much whole.”

McGraw has a daughter and a granddaughter, and she worries they will be struck by the hereditary disease.

“She had to grow up really fast and take on a lot of responsibility,” McGraw said of her daughter. “I’m always scared now because we have such a big history. I’m always praying for the best, not just hoping.”

Doctors told McGraw her cancer was 90 percent likely to recur.

“I’m just praying that God carries me through this like he always has,” McGraw said.

McGraw offered her advice to other women to get checked out, and demand a mammogram.

“Don’t be ashamed to ask for it if you’re not feeling right,” McGraw said.

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