VALDOSTA – “My story has been a part of their survival guide,” said Alison King, a breast cancer survivor.
King was home when she felt a lump in her right breast during a self-examination in June 2015, she said. She was 44 at the time.
After meeting with her obstetrician/gynecologist, it was determined she’d developed Stage 3 ER/PR-positive breast cancer.
A registered nurse since 1995, she said she immediately knew from an ultrasound that it was breast cancer.
She’d had a mammogram 15 months prior, but the lump was not found then.
Upon receiving her diagnosis, the mother of two was left with how to tell her son and daughter.
She relied on her experience as a registered nurse to assist her with the conversation.
“I always said that I hope one day if I ever need that care that someone treats me the same way that I treated my patients all of these years,” she said she told her children.
She told them her time had come.
"I’m going to need some help and I’m hopeful to have really good caregivers because I have breast cancer,” she said.
She said her daughter immediately began shedding tears.
At the South Georgia Medical Center Pearlman Cancer Center, King tested negative for the BRCA gene test, meaning her cancer was not genetic.
The mother of a daughter, she said she felt relieved.
After learning of her diagnosis, King had to focus on what was next for her.
“For someone that’s just told that they have breast cancer, it’s very hard to even think what’s the next thing that you’re going to do; what your plan’s going to be because you’re still trying to take that all in,” King said.
She opted to have a double mastectomy — having both breasts removed.
“That was very tough surgery to get over,” she said. “That’s a process for sure. Very painful. It just takes everything out of you.”
Eight rounds of chemotherapy treatment followed a month later, and then, King had to undergo 37 radiation treatments.
During a reconstruction surgery, she had breast implants inserted.
King’s cancer spread from her breast to lymph nodes in her right arm causing her to develop lymphedema.
Hair loss was difficult for her throughout the process, she said.
“Being in that shower, and your hair just starts coming out in clumps in your hand, that was a really devastating day for me,” she said.
King entered remission in late 2016 and is considered to be cancer-free.
She must take medication for 10 years, have lab tests taken every three months and CT scans every six months. She also sees a surgical oncologist annually.
King said she believes she endured breast cancer to help others.
So far, she has assisted five women along their journeys, she said.
“It’s been great because now I have five new lifelong friends that I wouldn’t have ever had had I not been in this and it’s a blessing, too,” King said.
Blessings can stem from breast cancer, she said.
As for King, her blessings included becoming closer to God and her husband while gaining support from others.
“It teaches people in your family empathy and how to care for others but it also teaches the patient to let go of a lot of different things,” she said.
She urges people to cherish and enjoy the time they have and to not stress about small things.
While King is fearful her cancer will return, she said it is not a death sentence and can be positive.
She encourages people to not feel helpless.
“I’ve been through it,” she said. “I know that you can come out of it a stronger person, and so, I want others to believe that, as well.”
King said she didn’t battle cancer alone. God was with her the entire time.
“You’ll be amazed by your strength. God gives you that strength. You’ll have more good days than bad. Lean on others,” she said.
“Listen to your doctors and your support team. Continue and enjoy your life. This is your new life.”