Survivor shares her story

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68-year-old explains how cancer led her to make healthier eating choices

By Cheri Harris

When Annette Thomas found out she had breast cancer, she thought she was going to die.

“I cried so when I left that office, my face swelled,” the 68-year-old said. “I thought the worst.”

The Gadsden County native said she had already had her annual mammogram but was sent for a second after pain in her shoulder with no other obvious cause raised her doctor’s concern.

On Oct. 10, 2012, she had a lumpectomy at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital in which part of her right breast was removed and at the same time, the surgeon made a second incision under her left arm, removing four lymph nodes.

Follow-up treatment included both chemotherapy and radiation at One Healing Place in Tallahassee.

Thomas said the staff members at that facility were very helpful. She spent time with a counselor who guided her through a book about cancer, and whenever she had treatment, she said someone was always there to read to her or talk to her.

“They’re awesome,” she said. “If they’re having a bad day, you never know it.”

She said employees there always greeted her with a smile, and with her help she found a new attitude: “I can live. I’m not fixin’ to die.”

“I could see nothing but the red when they first told me,” Thomas said.

She also credits her close friend Sarah Mitchell for keeping her spirits up during treatment because her friend was going through treatment for lung cancer at the same time.

“We sort of supported one another,” she said.

About two weeks ago, Thomas said she had a follow-up mammogram and she remains cancer-free.

“I said, ‘In the name of Jesus, it shall not return.’”

Her message to other women is to have regular mammograms.

“It’s important,” she said. “It’s so important; women don’t know how important it is.”

Battling cancer has had a surprisingly positive health benefit for this retired cancer.

“This cancer taught me to eat right, exercise and look more closely at my body,” she said.

In the past year, she said she has dropped from 287 pounds to 171 pounds by cutting out fried meat and watching her portion sizes.

“I’m learning to take care of this temple here,” she said, “because God’s going to keep the inside of this temple.”

Times Executive Editor Cheri Harris can be reached at 850-627-7649 or editor@gadcotimes.com.