CHIPLEY — In observance of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, hundreds rallied together for food, shopping and support at Northwest Florida Community Hospital’s annual even Girls Night Out held on the evening of Oct. 11 at the Washington County Agricultural Center in Chipley.
Venders from far and wide came to sell their wears and donate portions for cancer causes such as the American Cancer Society and Susan G. Komen for a Cure.
Two guest speakers were invited to give their testimonies of how they experienced, coped and fought to overcome breast cancer.
The first speaker was L. Dianne Myrick.
“You’ve got to have the spiritual; you have to talk to Him,” said Myrick. “Cause He knows what’s going on. No one else knows because they’re not going through it, but He knows. My chemo family, I love them. We have a ball. When one leaves, it makes us sad, but we are so grateful. I’m grateful that I have breast cancer and not my children; not my grandchildren.
“I’ve seen children with cancer,” Myrick said. “I can handle it for my children, I can handle it for my grandchildren, I can handle it for all of you. If you don’t have a support group, call me. I’ll support you. I’ve seen women who have nobody. I have a list; we’re going through it together. Do it together. That’s your family now. They know what you’re going through. Don’t give up. Don’t get depressed. You’re going to. I’ve been there.
“I’ve shed my tears. I’ve got depressed. I had to make myself get up. Just because you’ve got cancer doesn’t mean you should stop living. In fact I live more now then I did without cancer. I’m more spiritual now then I was without. You gain much more then you loose, but you’ve got to have a positive attitude. The biggest majority of my things is laughter. Laughter has gotten me through the worst things in my life. Laughter has gotten me into trouble and out,” Myrick said.
The next guest speaker was Jo Ann Truette.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path,” said Truette. “This is exactly what happened to me five years ago.
“It’s an amazing thing. Oct. 11 I was looking at my calendar just to see the day. Oct. 11, 2007 I picked up the Jacksonville County Times and took it home with me. Of course it was Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so they had the articles on Breast Cancer Awareness,” Truette said. “I was reading the testimony of a lady who had breast cancer and I thought to myself I had better perform a self-exam because I’ve never done it before.
“Now that is the one thing I have to tell you tonight, do your self-exam. I was having mammograms. I’ve had them going on five years. When I did my self-exam I found a lump. I called my doctor the next day and said I had a lump and I would like to be seen. She called me back and said she made me an appointment with the women’s health clinic and it was for the next Thursday, which they usually didn’t get them that quick. I went in on Thursday and had the mammogram and then on to the sonogram and the lady asked me how large it felt. I said it felt about the size of a dime and as she was rolling the sonogram around it felt a lot bigger then that.
“They did the biopsy and the doctor said there was an 80 percent chance that there was nothing there, but there’s still a 20 percent chance that there was. I had it set in my heart that when the nurse called me Monday morning that I kind of knew what she was going to say,” Truette said. “And she said ‘Jo Ann, you have cancer, but it’s non-invasive.’ She said ‘you can have a lumpectomy and you’ll be fine,’ but this is the rest of the story. The Lord had taken care of it before it even got started and this is how He did it. I was in Birmingham, Ala., and my brother-in-law is Randal Truette. A lot of you know him, he’s from right here in Washington County and he was in the hospital up at UAB in February long before October.
“We were in a waiting room waiting on him and I wasn’t in the waiting room, I was off studying for a test. When I came back into the waiting room my husband said that this lady’s sister is from Greenwood. I said ‘uh-hum’ and didn’t question it; I’m not a busy person. Well, my sister came along and she knew of many people from Greenwood, so she asked ‘who is it?’ The lady’s name was Elizabeth Saunders; you might have run into her, she is a testimony of God’s Grace. Let me show you how God works,” Truette said. “The next morning at UAB, and if you’ve ever been there, it’s a huge hospital; I got in the elevator with her sister going up to see my brother-in-law. I decided I’d go up and visit her.
“She was sitting up in bed and she started telling me about her cancer doctor. She said ‘Jo Ann, I was on that table for 15 hours. If you ever have this problem, this is who you need to go see.’ She wrote the doctor’s name down, her name is Helen Krontiras, M.D., and she’s at the breast clinic in Birmingham. She said that she is the best breast cancer surgeon in the nation. So when my doctor said that I had cancer I was able to say whom I wanted to go see.
“I got to the UAB and we were talking about mammograms, this is another note to the wise; if you have dense breasts be very careful,” Truette said. “I got up there and they took me in to do a mammogram and then she took me into another room. I asked her ‘what are we doing in here? We just got done with my mammogram.’ She said that ‘this is for dense breasts and you have dense breasts.’ I had three tumors in one and one in the other located in my lymph nodes; it was three and a half centimeters. If you don’t think God is big enough to take care of every little detail; He had it all under control before I ever even went up there. I had a double mastectomy on Dec. 4, 2007. I had it in Birmingham and the next day I went home.
“My family was there with me and rode with me all the way from Birmingham. That afternoon I got home and went through six weeks of just getting over surgery. When I started my chemotherapy and I wanted to continue working. I don’t know what I did for God to show me so much favor but I went and got my prosthesis and a wig. My wig looked better then my natural hair, my boss said he wished it grow back out just like it. I did, I lost my hair, but I didn’t get any of the ulcers, I never got a low blood count. He had His hand on me. I worked for through the whole five months of chemotherapy and nobody ever even knew I was sick, Truette said.
“I never lost any weight and I never got sick. I’d been praying about reconstruction surgery because I couldn’t stand having the prosthesis, I just wanted to throw them off as soon as I got in the door when I got home. I had cancer insurance and I knew I could do what I wanted to do. I prayed because I had heard that they’d have to take muscle from your stomach or from your rear-end and it sounded so painful. One day I was sitting in my office and I just typed in ‘breast cancer reconstruction.’ There was a clinic in New Orleans that came up and they were able to take fat from other places to reconstruct them. If you ever know of anyone who would want reconstruction just call me, because this place was special. I went out there and they told me it would cost me $12,000 out of pocket to be billed to the insurance company and she asked if I would be interested in their shuttle service. I asked her how much that would cost and she said that it was a part of the cost to take away the anxiety. I said ‘sure.’ The next morning a limousine came to pick me up, with a chauffer. They took us down on St. Charles Street to the doctor’s office. Talk about laughter, we walked in there and the doctor had an emergency that morning with his wife and the doctor I spoke with asked me what size I would like to have. I said ‘well, I used to be a double-D and I got tired of totting that around, so I’d much rather have a c-cup.’ So that’s what I’ve been wearing.
“The next day I went back to have surgery and was in the hospital for four days. I felt as though I was in a hotel. I went back for a check up and hardly had to take any time off for that. Dec. 8, 2008 I had my hair back, I had my breasts back; I was put all back together again and in better shape then what I was. It’s amazing. God’s given me a bigger testimony then I’ve ever had. He has opened the door. I can get on the plane with someone and talk with them all the way to Omaha, Nebraska about the Lord cause they’re listening because I had cancer. There is no end to what God can do if we’re willing to do. One of the things I wanted to say is about attitude. Talk about having a positive attitude. I had a gentleman say ‘you know, it’s your attitude.’ Another thing is I never prayed for healing.
“I had a little Pentecostal friend of mine, she said ‘Jo Ann, I want to pray for you. I want to agree with you. What is it you’re praying for?’ And I said ‘The Grace for each day.’ Throughout it all I’ve never had any fear; God was with me. Everyday He gave me the Grace to face each day. I’ve been fighting it and I am in the clear —I had a PET scan last month,” Truette said.
“I am so blessed and I am so grateful that God has put me in a place where I can share that with you. Cancer is nothing but a problem. I figure that any problem that we can have on this earth can be handled with Him and He grants us the Grace even in spite or ourselves, because He’s good at that too.”