Trisha Tobey was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and has since underwent chemotherapy and been given the 'all clear.' Now, she pays back the support she received during treatment by doing the same for others.
BY MATT MENCARINI | STAFF WRITER
Before Trisha Tobey began chemotherapy for the breast cancer she was diagnosed with on March 23, 2009 -- she remembers the exact date -- she purchased $245 worth of hats, knowing she’d soon be bald.
She was sitting at her computer, crying, she remembers, when her husband, Scott, came home from work. She told him about her purchase, and he told her it was alright. Money didn’t matter.
Later, he shaved her head and she cried the whole time. She was worried she was going to scare her children.
“I walked into my living room, where my kids were playing, and they were just like, ‘Hi mom.’ It never phased them that I was bald,” Tobey said. “It was the grownups that had the hard time with it. My sister, my oldest sister, couldn’t even look at me. She would just be brought to tears.”
And that was the pattern. There were a lot of tears during the nearly eight months Tobey was in treatment.
“It was very surreal,” she said of the day she received the diagnosis. “And a lot of disbelief, because I had been getting my mammograms like I was supposed to. And I found a lump and I thought, ‘Well, I don’t want to just ignore it.’”
So Tobey made an appointment with her gynecologist, who initially thought the lump was just a cyst. Next came the tests, a whole string of them. She had a diagnostic mammogram, and the results came back normal.
Then came an ultrasound -- standard procedure in these cases -- and that's when it became clear that the lump was more serious than initially expected.
“As soon as they did the ultrasound, they said, ‘That’s not a cyst,’” she said. “And my heart sank.”
Then a biopsy was ordered, which confirmed it was breast cancer.
What followed was six rounds of chemotherapy over 18 weeks, nearly six weeks of radiation and a double mastectomy.
But Tobey says that she was one of the lucky ones. Her cancer was estrogen-receptive, not protein-receptive. She was put on on a five-year plan, taking medication to block her estrogen. And, still, she needs to see her oncologist every four weeks to make sure everything's in line.
“It was such a feeling of relief, like a weight had been lifted off of me,” Tobey said of the day her port line, used for chemotherapy, was removed.
Her doctor said there wasn’t need for chemotherapy anymore, she’d been given the “all clear.”
“I cried the whole way home from the doctor’s office,” she said. “It was just, tears of joy. I just felt like, ‘OK, I’m going to be OK.’”
The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk, Oct. 27, will be Tobey’s fourth such walk. She’s attended them both as a supporter and a survivor.
“There’s a lot of energy there,” Tobey said of the walks. “You’ve got 10,000 people dressed in pink -- and as flamboyant as you can imagine: pink wigs, pink boas, pink socks. Even men in pink wigs. There’s a lot of excitement and enthusiasm.”
The walks do a lot to raise research money, also. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer-awareness walks in 2011 raised more than $60 million.
However, events like these also help form a support system. For Tobey, getting patients and survivors together in the same place to meet and help one another is a powerful thing, and just as important as any of the financial impacts.
“It’s comforting to know that people want to make a difference,” she said. “People want to make strides, as far progress. It’s an important issue that needs to be addressed. Cancer is just too common.”
Tobey shares a bond with other breast cancer survivors only they can understand, she added. These people are often strangers, but they're connected. They know what the other has gone, or is going, through. And they want to help.
“I love to just be able to pay it forward -- as a sister," she said. "(They're) my pink sisters.”
The Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk will take place 9 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Jackie Robinson Ballpark, 105 E. Orange Ave., in Daytona Beach.
For more, visit www.makingstrides.acsevents.org.