GREENVILLE — October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Tracy Luce knows the importance of that observance.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2003 at the age of 39.
A medical receptionist at Family Health, where she has worked for 23 years, Luce said it was a positive attitude she had as well as the support of family and friends that helped her through it.
“When I first heard that (the diagnosis), I was shocked,” she admittedly said. “I thought to myself, ‘Not me. This is never going to happen to me.’ I was very scared of the word cancer. It overwhelms you.”
She said it was after a lot of testing and doctors’ appointments that she was set up for surgery.
“Depending on what we found out, we learned my treatment plans,” she said. “They wanted to see if the cancer spread to my lymph nodes and, unfortunately, they had. They took the lump out of my breast and removed all of my lymph nodes on the right side.”
Then she was given a course of treatments; eight for chemotherapy…four treatments were completed for four hours and four treatments for eight hours at what used to be Good Sam North. After that, she underwent 90 days of radiation every day at the same location.
“After that, all of the tests came back good,” Luce said. “They put me on a cancer pill for the next five years and I would have to go back to the doctor periodically.”
After the five years, she was declared cancer-free.
“Now, I go back yearly for a mammogram,” she said. “I’ve had a couple of scares, but they were all cleared.”
She said she is not the first in her family to have cancer. Her father (the late Frank Graham) had colon cancer; her sister had succumbed to stomach cancer; and her niece, Lindsay Purnhagen, is battling lymphoma and currently is in remission.
The 55-year-old Luce said it was the support of her immediate family, then friends and work family who helped her get through this ordeal.
The 1982 graduate of Greenville High School and husband Allen have been married for 33 years and are parents of three children, Tyler, 31, Graham who will soon be 29; and Haleigh, 23. They also have two grandchildren, Isaiah, 4, and Mackenzie, 2, with another one on the way.
“My life revolves around my family now,” she said.
She said she kept a positive attitude.
“There were days I’d say, ‘why did I deserve this?’,” she recalled. “One family member made me a booklet of pictures. As I was doing chemo, I’d look through it and it would remind me everyday not to give up. I feel like I’m lucky. People have had so much worse than I did. Their outcome was not as good as mine. A lot of people me put on prayer chains and I was overwhelmed with cards.”
She said she was ill, but that didn’t keep her from working all the way through.
“I took no time off,” she said. “I did chemo on Thursdays and took off on Fridays and than was back to work on Monday. Support here (at Family Health) helped me through.”
One of the most challenging things for her was losing her hair.
“The people here at work held a hat day and everyone wore hats that day,” said Luce, born the youngest of six daughters to Pat Graham and the late Frank Graham. “I lost my hair within two weeks of the first treatment. It was overwhelming at first. My family picked me out a wig, but after a while, I had enough confidence and didn’t need a wig so I stopped wearing it. It was a year before the hair grew back.”