AMARILLO (KAMR/KCIT) – “You have cancer.” Three words that nobody is ever truly prepared to hear.
In 2018, Claude resident, Desha Butler, received her diagnosis of Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in her left breast with one lymph node lighting up cancerous in her left armpit.
From 2018 to present time, Butler has documented her journey. This is her story.
“My Story” by Desha Butler.
“Cancer runs deep in my family. My father, Joe Henderson, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2015. My mother, JoAnn Henderson, was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 1996. My sister, Steffanie Henderson, was diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2012. I knew deep down it wasn’t a matter of if I would get cancer, but when and what type.”
“I had a mammogram on 3/22/2018 and all went well. Ten days later, I felt a knot and thought to myself, it’s nothing just inflammation from the mammogram. No big deal. In the meantime, I received my results from the mammogram stating all was normal, so I was relieved.”
“After a couple of weeks, the knot had not gone away, but had gotten bigger, and I finally decided to call Dr. Wilkerson. I went in on 04/25/18 and she did an exam and referred me to Texas Breast Specialist for an ultrasound to ease both of our minds.”
“I immediately took my referral over and the soonest appointment they had available was 05/18/18. During the three weeks wait, I felt a new knot under my armpit. It felt like a Hot Tamale piece of candy. I knew deep in my heart that was not a positive sign.”
“I arrived at 10:00 and Dr. Arenivas completed an ultrasound. After she finished, she asked her scheduling staff to get me an appointment for that afternoon for a biopsy. Kyle and I went to Medipark and prayed together. At that point, we handed whatever the outcome would be all over to God and said, ‘your will be done”. When I arrived that afternoon, Dr. Arenivas informed me the ultrasound showed several masses attached to one large mass in my left breast and was concerned with a lymph node in my armpit. She took several samples of tissue from the different masses and told me to come back on Wednesday, 05/23/18, for results. I knew deep in my heart when I walked out of Dr. Arenivas’ office that I had cancer. We put everything on hold that weekend and focused on our family. Time stood still. Those five days were the longest days just waiting for Wednesday to arrive.”
“Kyle met me at Texas Oncology at 11:00 on 05/32/18, and Dr. Arenivas and Jennifer Campos, Nurse Navigator, told us the news. I was diagnosed with Stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma and Invasive Lobular Carcinoma in my left breast with one lymph node lighting up cancerous in my left armpit. I wasn’t shocked with the news and neither was Kyle. Although, you are never prepared to hear the words, “you have cancer.”
“The worst part for me was telling my family I had cancer. I will never forget making the calls to my mom and sister. I thought that was a tough pill to swallow, but it was nothing compared to telling our precious daughters, Addison (10) and Breleigh (8) that mommy had cancer.”
“We had been very upfront and honest with the girls from the beginning. It was no surprised that Addison wanted to ride home with me from school that day. As soon as she got in my car, she saw my Texas Oncology bag. She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “you have cancer, don’t you?” OUCH!!! “Yes, Addie, I do.” She took it like a true champion. You see, each time my sister had her treatments back in 2012, Addie would spend the weekends at her house taking care of her. She had already experienced it. She knew what to expect. When we arrived home, she went straight to her room. I didn’t bother her as I knew she had a lot to process. It wasn’t long and she came out and said, ‘Mom, I have the perfect Bible verse for you and your journey.’ She had written down Deuteronomy 31:6, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ That night our family claimed that verse and decided we were going to “Find Joy in The Journey” each day.”
Kyle and I sat down with Breleigh and told her. She was only eight at the time and didn’t know how to process the news. The only thing she knew was cancer had taken several of our family members and she was terrified. Kyle had put her in the bath and I vividly remember walking in the bathroom and seeing her precious little head leaning against the faucet crying. My heart broke into a million pieces. She said, ‘Mommy, I don’t want you to die.’ Tears streaming from my face, I replied, ‘Breleigh, I am not going to die.”
“I had an appointment the following day with Dr. Reddy, my oncologist. Dr. Reddy is so knowledgeable and gave me several different plans of actions to consider and we all agreed I would go with the most aggressive treatment. I would have eight rounds of chemotherapy every two weeks. As I was leaving the office, I was given a stack of appointments that had already been scheduled for me and we would need results back before I could start chemo.”
“The first week of June was very busy with appointments. I was able to get my port inserted on June 5th and my chemo journey began on Thursday, June 7, 2018. I had a MRI on June 10, 2018, due to both of my insurances denying me a PET scan. I received a call on June 14, 2018, that the MRI showed suspicious areas on my right breast. I went back to Texas Breast Specialists on June 20th for a biopsy of my right breast and the skin of my left breast as it was starting to change colors and it was very concerning. On July 5, 2018, I received the diagnosis of Stage 3 Invasive Mammary Carcinoma of my right breast. This was a totally different cancer than what was in my left breast. My mind was spinning. Had my cancer metastasized so quickly? Had it always been there? So many questions. After talking with Dr. Reddy, he explained it had not metastasized. I felt like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. We agreed we would continue with the same treatment plan knowing I would be having a double mastectomy in October.”
“Every two weeks for 16 weeks, I would arrive at Texas Oncology for my infusion. I would arrive anywhere from 8:30 to 9:00 am and leave between 3:00 to 3:30 in the afternoon. I would spend five plus hours in the infusion chair. The staff, doctors and nurses became my family as did the other patients who were there on Thursdays. I finished this phase of my journey on September 13, 2018.”
“On October 9, 2018, I began the second phase of my journey. This was a day I had been looking forward to since I heard the word, cancer on May 23, 2018. This is the day Dr. Doughtie performed my double mastectomy. The surgery lasted three hours and Dr. Doughtie removed both breasts, all the lymph nodes on my left side and one lymph node on my right side. She did a beautiful job. My only request when I met with her was to make me as flat chested as she could. When the bandages came off and I saw my chest for the first time, I could not have been more pleased. Dr. Doughtie did exactly what I had requested.”
“My third phase of my journey began on November 27, 2020. Radiation. I had 35 rounds of radiation, each Monday through Friday for seven weeks. If you would have told me this would be the worst part of my cancer journey, I would have never believed you. My first radiation treatment entailed of a lot of imaging of my both armpits, whole chest wall and my neck. I had to lie on the table for 46 minutes completely still, with my arms above my head and my chin was taped up so I wouldn’t move. The radiation technicians informed me my time on the table daily would only be around 25-27 minutes for the next 28 treatments. My final 7 treatments were specific to where my cancer had been, and I was only on the table for ten minutes. Radiation was by far the worst part of my journey. The severe burns I received were at times unbearable. But, God was with me every step of the way and I was able to persevere through it all.”
“The fourth stage of my journey was to take an oral chemo pill, Xeloda. I took this pill for 14 days straight then I would take a week off. I did this for eight rounds. I did very well with this chemo and again did not have any horrible side effects.”
“The final stage of my journey is ongoing and will last for at least five years. I take a pill, Anastrozole, which is an estrogen blocker.”
“I thank God for my family, friends and prayer warriors who supported me each step of the way. My husband, mother, sister and the Vinsons never missed one chemo session. They sat in the waiting room all day long to show their support. Our precious friends, the Pikes, filled the gap and and stepped up to help raise our girls so I could rest. I can never repay everyone who did so much for our family.”
“This is my story. It is beautiful chaos. I was recently asked if I would do it all over again. ABSOLUTELY!!! My scars tell a story. A story of God’s faithfulness. A story of His mercies. A story of His undying love for me.”
“God is good.”
“I blogged my journey on FaceBook as it was easier to have one location for my friends and family to get updates on my journey. Walking Last – Desha’s Journey Through Breast Cancer.”