Mary Beth Sallee
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, and for Barren County native and breast cancer survivor Teresa Jewell Bewley, she hopes sharing her story will help others.
Bewley found a lump in her breast at the end of March in 2020. However, due to closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she was unable to see a doctor for diagnosis until May of 2020 and was unable to see an oncologist until another month later in June.
Bewley was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Metastatic breast cancer, also known as stage IV, is breast cancer that has spread to another part of the body. For Bewley, that included lymph nodes.
“It was very dramatic and very hard on my family,” Bewley said of her cancer diagnosis. “It was very stressful in deciding on what doctor to go to and trying to get in due to backups from COVID closure.”
Bewley’s cancer was estrogen receptor (ER) positive, progesterone receptor (PR) positive, and HER2-negative.
ER-positive breast cancer means that the cells of this type of breast cancer have receptors that allow them to use the hormone estrogen to grow. PR-positive means this type of breast cancer is sensitive to progesterone, and the cells have receptors that allow them to use this hormone to grow as well. When a breast cancer is HER2-negative, the cancerous cells do not contain high levels of the protein HER2. Knowing this information about a person’s breast cancer provides a doctor with a better idea of how best to treat the cancer.
Bewley underwent a mastectomy and also had 19 lymph nodes removed. She also underwent 30 radiation treatments, as well as chemotherapy.
“Chemo, it was very hard,” Bewley said. “I had no appetite, was very weak, and was very depressed. I took seven treatments of ACT (abbreviation for a chemotherapy combination used to treat breast cancer). The first four treatments they call it the Red Devil.”
The “Red Devil” Bewley referred to is Adriamycin (doxorubicin), a chemotherapy drug that can slow or stop the growth of cancer cells. It is referred to as the Red Devil because it is bright red in color and can cause uncomfortable side effects.
Thankfully, however, treatment worked for Bewley. She is currently in remission and is thankful to have had a wonderful support system by her side during the battle.
“My family and friends, it helped having them there to support me and help me through my hardest times of my life,” Bewley said. “…You need someone to be with you through it and to help you when you cannot think for yourself. It’s emotionally draining, and having someone watching out for me helped me so much in learning how to treat the disease and get through the battle.”
For anyone else currently battling cancer, Bewley encourages others to keep a positive outlook.
“It (cancer) will change your life,” she said. “It will be a period of your life that will put you at your lowest point, but always look towards the end goal of getting better. You need to cheer yourself on the entire time.”
And despite the difficult battle of her own, cancer has taught Bewley a thing or two about life.
“I took days for granted and good health,” Bewley said. “It has changed me to not waste any moment.”