In the Nick of Time
In the fall of 2013, Lura Hawkins, a math teacher at Avery Trace Middle School in Cookeville, had just had her annual mammogram at The Women’s Center at Cookeville Regional when she got a call back the next day telling her there was something there.
“They tried to reassure me on the phone,” said Hawkins. “They felt like it was just a shadow, nothing really to be concerned with, but they did want me to come back in.”
The next day she went back to The Imaging Center at Cookeville Regional, where they did further imaging studies and an ultrasound and determined that a biopsy would be needed.
“At that moment, I really felt inside of my spirit that it was not going to be good,” said Hawkins.
The biopsy revealed that she had invasive ductal carcinoma ER+/ PR+ cancer in her left breast. Although they had several options for care, Hawkins and her husband, Jeff, decided to stay close to home.
“I believe God led me to the doctors here in Cookeville, that they had the best course of treatment for me, and I trusted in what they were telling me,” said Hawkins.
After further testing, Hawkins and her doctors decided a mastectomy would be the best course to take.
“I was 43 at the time I was diagnosed, and the emotions were just a huge range of anger, fear, disbelief; I guess really it was fear more than anything,” said Hawkins, whose sons were 12 and 16 at the time. “I wondered if I was going to be around to see them get married and see them graduate, because you don’t know.”
Hawkins had her mastectomy and first reconstructive surgery at the same time in December 2013, with later follow-up surgeries to complete the reconstruction process. She has now been cancer-free for three and a half years.
“I really attribute my good outcome to the fact that the mammogram found it so early,” said Hawkins. “Because it was found at Stage 1, it had not spread to my lymph nodes, and I was not going to need chemotherapy.”
“She walked alongside me; she went to doctors’ appointments with me; she helped me make decisions; she was even there the day of my surgery; and I really am very thankful for the support that I got from her as we journeyed through this cancer,” she said.
Hawkins has continued to see her oncologist, Dr. Venumadhav Kotla, for regular follow-up visits, first at two-month intervals, then every six months, and now just once a year. Dr. Kotla recommended genetic testing to offer more insight into Hawkins’ likelihood to develop cancer again in the future.
“I’m thankful my test didn’t come back positive for the breast cancer gene, but that’s why we chose to do it, so that my doctors would have all the information that they needed to develop the best course of treatment for me,” said Hawkins.
She offers this advice to women who are putting off getting a mammogram:
“I can’t stress enough how important it is to get your yearly mammogram. I didn’t have to do the chemotherapy, and I believe it’s because that mammogram discovered the tumor early and we were able to get it out of my body,” said Hawkins. “I continue to go and have my other breast checked.”