Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Xenia mom grateful for medical professionals, family

Since cancer diagnosis, she focuses on ‘taking one moment at a time’

In 2018, Tracy Evans of Xenia was busy with a demanding job as a surgical nurse and a mother of three active boys. Then in September of that year, she felt a lump in one breast.

“It didn’t feel like a defined pea or marble shape,” Evans said. “I first thought it was nothing, so I delayed getting it checked.”

Evans worked with surgeon Dr. Michael Elrod, who she knew was very passionate about breast cancer cases and constantly kept himself and his medical students updated on the latest research and treatments.

“I told him I thought I felt something in my breast,” Evans said.

Elrod immediately ordered a mammogram for Evans, who at just 35 years old, had never had one. Within hours, she had an appointment and told the technician that she thought it was just very dense tissue.

“She (technician) showed me the scans and I could see that the mass was all white, while the surrounding tissue was gray and black,” Evans said.

On Friday of that same week, she had an ultrasound of her breast and a radiologist looked at it almost immediately. The tech ordered a biopsy.

Evans said she wasn’t alarmed, but asked the radiologist if it could be a malignancy. Without pulling any punches, he replied that he was 90% certain that it was.

“I was emotionally devastated to hear that,” Evans said.

Elrod scheduled Evans’ biopsy for that same afternoon on Friday, Sept. 21. The procedure involved three guided biopsies in three spots. Then Evans and her family began the excruciating wait for results.

Evans received a diagnosis of invasive lobular carcinoma one week later. She already knew her options when Elrod asked her how she’d like to approach her treatment.

“I immediately knew I wanted a double mastectomy,” Evans said. “I had finished breastfeeding my youngest son and I didn’t want to risk the cancer coming back.”

Elrod agreed with her decision and, the following week, she had a Positron Emission Tomography (PET) scan and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of both breasts, then met with both a plastic surgeon and genetic counselor.

“The MRI showed a mass in my right breast as well as my left,” Evans said. “And they could see a mass in my liver. I couldn’t believe this had overtaken my body and I didn’t even know!”

Surgery was schedule for Oct. 17 and Elrod planned to do a lymph node biopsy at that time, as well as place tissue expanders to help prepare Evans for eventual plastic surgery.

“The plan before surgery was that I would be on oral meds for five to ten years,” Evans said. “But the biopsy results came back positive for malignancy in the lymph nodes.”

While recovering from her surgery, Evans learned that she would need to begin chemotherapy within a few weeks. She had a port placed and began treatments every other week, four times per week. After 20 weeks of chemo, she started radiation therapy and had reconstruction surgery in April 2019. She completed treatment by July of 2019 and subsequent scans have shown no evidence of disease. In December of 2020, she had a full hysterectomy since her cancer is estrogen receptive.

Today, Evans is 38 years old and is grateful to not only her medical professionals, but to her family – husband Curtis and her sons, Dominic, 13; Preston, 8; and Beckham, 4. She also credits her team from Kettering Health Dayton (formerly Grandview Medical Center) who supported her by organizing fundraisers and meals to help the family during her recovery.

Throughout her ordeal, Evans was most concerned about her young sons and how they were handling the news.

Evans learned about a six-week program through Kettering Health called CLIMB (Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery). The program combines hands on, age-appropriate projects with discussions designed to build coping skills and to teach children about cancer.

“The program really helped my boys talk about their feelings and learn more about what I was going through,” Evans said.

For Evans, life after a cancer diagnosis is one of hope and constant change. She is not only learning to navigate life in different ways, but is also trying her best to appreciate every single moment.

“I guess I would say I’m working hard to be more in the moment and more present,” Evans said. “I wish I could say I am less anxious than before, but I’m working on that. I focus on whatever I’m doing at the time — whether it’s time with each of my boys or at work with my team. It’s so much sweeter now taking one moment at a time. I’m so proud of my boys, who wear all the pink the entire month of October.”

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