There’s an old saying that God commonly answers prayers in three ways -“Yes,” “No,” and “Wait.” Cindy Andrews has experienced all three answers during her breast cancer journey.
“I gave my prayer warriors very specific things to pray for,” Andrews says. “My church was just incredible.”
Andrews is not shy about acknowledging God’s divine presence in her life since her breast cancer diagnosis last year. She’s not slow about sharing what a blessing her local hospital has been, either.
“That’s why I really want to be able to share what happened with me and what great care I got at LeConte Medical Center and Thompson Cancer Center – Sevier,” Andrews says. “I want people in this area to realize we have some great facilities.”
Another old saying is that “life can turn on a dime,” and it’s a saying that certainly applies to Andrews.
Her life changed in May of 2017.
“I turned just the right way,” Andrews says, “and I felt something.”
Declining to define it as a lump or a knot, Andrews says it was something that “just didn’t “feel right.” It may have been coincidence or it may have been divine intervention, but she just happened to have an appointment for 3D mammography on her calendar for the coming week.
Andrews had scheduled her mammogram at LeConte Comprehensive Breast Center, which has been designated as a Breast Imaging Center of Excellence by the American College of Radiology (ACR), a distinction shared by only 31 mammogram facilities in Tennessee.
“They marked it, and they called me back the next day to do an ultrasound, we did that and the radiologist wanted to do a biopsy,” Andrews recalls. “I had that done on the 30th – my 31st wedding anniversary.”
On June 1, 2017 Andrews received the news that she had breast cancer. It was Stage 2, and she learned she was HER2-positive. This meant her cancer cells were likely to grow more quickly, so her cancer could be particularly aggressive.
Andrews chose Thompson Cancer Survival Center, known for its excellence in delivering care to Sevierville cancer patients. There she learned treatment options are available that specifically target HER2, and those treatments are very effective, giving her a good prognosis and hope for conquering cancer.
Time to Fight
There are many different responses and reactions to a cancer diagnosis. For Cindy Andrews, the diagnosis made her want to get up and fight for her life. Her medical team was ready to go to war alongside her.
Andrews’ case was presented before a multidisciplinary tumor board, which brings together everyone involved in a patient’s case for a face to face discussion about the best options.
Over a period of just three weeks, Andrews underwent an MRI, two biopsies, a bone scan, thoracic x-rays, lab work, and had a port implanted. Chemotherapy began on June 22.
As friends and colleagues found out that Andrews had breast cancer, several of them asked if she was going to Knoxville for treatment. Her answer was always quick and confident.
“No! I’m having it done right here!” she said.
Andrews was adamant that she wanted to undergo treatment at Thompson and have her mastectomy at LeConte Medical Center. There would be less interruption in her life, during treatment she could drive herself to appointments and even continue working at her job.
But it was more than convenience. There was an element of comfort in choosing to stay close to home. It meant her husband could quickly be at her side when she needed him, and when she had difficult days, there were people close by she could call on for support.
From her diagnosis at the breast center to her treatment at the cancer center, Andrews says she saw God’s hand at work in her life and in her health. She also saw how hometown care can be world class.
No shame. No regrets.
Andrews made a decision to handle her cancer with a positive attitude. When her hair began to fall out after her second chemotherapy treatment she went home and asked her husband and son to shave her head. Then she posted a picture on Facebook.
“I tried to be very open and honest with everybody about what I was going through,” Andrews says. “I want ladies to know that it’s okay, and it’s not something to be ashamed of.”
She also wanted to use her experience to raise awareness about the importance of self-breast exams and annual screening mammograms. Andrews continues treatment today and can still feel the effects of what her body has been through, but the worst seems to be over and she counts herself victorious.
No one wants cancer, but Andrews says she’s glad her children had the chance to witness what she believes were miracles along the way, she’s glad she has an opportunity to let other women know there is excellent treatment close by at LeConte Medical Center, and that a cancer diagnosis doesn’t have to define you.
“When you’re diagnosed with breast cancer it can be devastating, but it can also be a big blessing because there are people out there who want to help,” Andrews says. “I didn’t want the diagnosis of cancer to rule my life.”
If anything, Andrews is living life more fully than she ever has before, and she’s counting her blessings every step of the way.
Schedule your mammogram
Schedule your mammogram today at the LeConte Comprehensive Breast Center. No referral is necessary.
If you live in Sevier County and do not have health insurance, the Paint the Mountains Pink Program can help by providing a free mammogram to qualifying women. Find out more at LeConteMedicalCenter.com/Pink