Michelle’s story: Leaning on loved ones

Self-discovery part of Dayton woman’s journey.

Dayton resident Michelle Davis has hit the two-year mark since her breast cancer diagnosis, and her bright spirit and positive attitude have naturally made her an outspoken advocate.

“I constantly tell my family and friends to check themselves, both in the shower and also lying down,” she said.

After being diagnosed at age 44 with Stage 2 Triple Negative Breast Cancer, “I’ve also learned to appreciate the little things in life and to not stress (as much) about the small things. I want to treasure every minute of the time I have on this planet.”

Davis added the type of cancer she had is “very aggressive” with about a 65% chance of reoccurrence. “I am about 1½ years out from being declared cancer-free.”

The world for Davis, who turned 48 on Oct. 21, has changed quite dramatically.

As she copes with myriad changes to her body, she has also embraced the unexpected self-discovery. “I learned how truly tough I am. I learned what is most important to me and that is my loved ones. I learned what it finally meant to put my own well-being over everything else. I learned that I am a true fighter.”

Prayer has been instrumental in guiding Davis through an arduous journey. “I put my faith in my doctors and in God above.”

The breast lump was found at Davis’s annual gynecology appointment on July 17, 2020. Davis said her doctor then ordered a 3D mammogram and ultrasound, which led to a biopsy on Aug. 12, 2020.

“After reading the findings on MyChart with the mammogram and ultrasound, I thought the worst,” she said. “I Googled all the phrases I didn’t know and found that everything I was Googling was pointing toward cancer.”

On Aug. 18, 2020, the results popped into MyChart that evening. “I saw the word ‘carcinoma’ and knew. I spent about an hour crying and then I was just numb,” Davis recalled.

Davis said telling loved ones about the cancer was difficult. “My boyfriend was with me when I got the MyChart results; and he went to every appointment after that. I kept my mom informed pretty much from the start. My mom told my sisters and aunt.”

Sharing the information with her two children proved to be a more delicate matter. “I have a son (23 at the time) and a daughter (19 at the time).” Davis said she didn’t tell her son “anything until I had met with my oncologist and knew what to expect myself. My daughter went back to college the day I got my results from the biopsy back. I told her once I had confirmation from my gynecologist on a FaceTime call.”

Davis met with her surgeon, Dr. Margaret Dunn, on Aug. 25, 2020, who then referred her to oncologist Dr. Satheesh Kathula with the Dayton Physicians Network.

A barrage of appointments and tests followed, which included a breast MRI, CT scan and an echocardiogram in September 2020.

“I started chemo on Sept. 23, 2020,” she added. “My course of treatment was four A/C chemo, followed by 12 Taxol treatments.”

During the time she was undergoing chemo, Davis met with Dr. Todd Hicks from Premier Plastic Surgeons to discuss reconstruction options. Dunn and Hicks performed a double mastectomy with tissue expander placement April 7, 2021.

“My pathology from my double mastectomy came back clear with no lymph node involvement,” Davis added, and radiation was not required. “I did my final exchange surgery where I went from expanders to saline implants on Oct. 27, 2021.”

Her side effects from treatment included tiredness, mouth sores, nausea and hair loss.

“The hardest side effects were losing my hair and the nail damage. Fourteen days after my first chemo treatment, my hair started falling out in clumps. I spent the day crying until my boyfriend got home and shaved my head,” she added.

“My boyfriend, my family and my friends were my lifeline,” Davis said. “They were all there to pick me up on my down days.”

Her sister put a post on Facebook, for instance, asking friends to send cards of encouragement. “My daughter and a former co-worker/friend of mine put together a fundraiser, selling candles to help support me monetarily,” Davis added. “I had plenty of books to read and lots of soft, snuggly blankets.”

What is the best piece of advice Davis can give someone after learning a breast cancer diagnosis?

“Funny, I just did this with a co-worker of mine in May. She found out she had breast cancer. I told her to take it one day at a time. Don’t focus on the future. Focus only on the day. Let yourself cry. Let yourself be depressed for a day. Then pick yourself up, put your gloves on, and give cancer the fight of its life.”

Special coverage

In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we will celebrate the stories of breast cancer survivors throughout October.

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