'Whatever,' Mary Sain says, even through cancer

  • Posted: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 7:42 p.m.

My name is Mary Sain and I was diagnosed with breast cancer Oct. 26, 1995, a very, very unexpected surprise. My doctor, Dr. David Smith, insisted on my having a mammogram since I hadn't had one in two years. I didn't think it was necessary, but he really insisted and made plans for me.Dr. Burke did the biopsy, and the report came back it was cancer. His office called me and said Dr. Burke wanted to see me. My mother had just died on Sunday and her funeral was on Tuesday, and I didn't give it a thought that on Thursday I had cancer.
I was working (I had a beauty shop), and it didn't suit me to go then, but the nurse made it sound important. It was pouring rain, and my husband said he would drive me up to the door of Dr. Burke's office. I told my Jim I would be right in and right out - but it didn't work that way. When I walked in the room, Dr. Burke turned around and said to me very seriously, "I don't tell people over the phone they have cancer."
Initial reaction
I was very calm, and my favorite saying is from Philippians 4:8: "Whatever." We both agreed that a lumpectomy should be fine for me. My answer again was, "Whatever."
My tumor was called a malignant neoplasm in my left breast. Dr. Black (my oncologist), Dr. Brinkley and Dr. Wimmer continued to check on me. Dr. Black wanted me to meet his team, in case I had an emergency, then I wouldn't be meeting a strange face.
Going back and forth from Dr. Black and Dr. Burke and having lab work done, I was very busy. I found out I couldn't meet everyone with a smile. Dr. Burke said something to me, I really don't remember what, but I started crying, which I seldom do. I said, "Dr. Burke, you don't know anything about me but what you read in a book." I was very emotional, and he said, "You're right." He and Dr. Black stayed in touch and he wrote Dr. Black and said, "Miss Mary was very hostile today."
I asked Dr. Black on my next visit about my reaction. He said, "You had every right to say that and more, too." That made me feel better, but I had to apologize to Dr. Burke. These were weekly visits and the next week when I saw Dr. Burke and apologized to him, he also said that I had every right to say what I did and more, and then he apologized to me. That was and still is a good relationship.
Starting radiation
Now the radiation starts. The doctors gave me a choice where to go. I said I wanted the Cancer Center of Salisbury, N.C., for my radiation treatments. I had no problem from this. They said 25 treatments, but I actually had 33. I still have the tattoos on my chest where the radiation was applied.
We have such wonderful doctors, which I am so thankful for. Dr. Paudel became my doctor at the Cancer Center, and he was a very compassionate doctor. At the end of my treatments, we had a donut and Coke party. The whole staff at the Cancer Center was very pleasant to be with and to know - even with that old, ugly word "cancer" being the reason for so much love and good friendship. For five years, I took the drug Tamoxifen and did everything the doctors told me to do. Dr. Black was very pleased with me and even sent me a Christmas card for three years after being cancer free. What a joyous day!
Another cancer
Now I'm going to be faced with another surprise. In 2002, I was diagnosed with lung cancer (later found to be unrelated to the previous breast cancer). My lung X-ray, just routine, showed a suspicious spot on my right lung. My family doctor, Dr. Yut, thought I should see a specialist in pulmonary diseases - Dr. Stephen Proctor. I saw Dr. Proctor and had thought that I had scar tissue on my lung since I had had episodes of pneumonia in the past. After several months of keeping a check on the area in my lung, Dr. Proctor finally said that we needed to do a biopsy and was very insistent on this. We did, and it was cancer. Surgery was scheduled for me in March 2002.
My husband had died suddenly in February 2001, and he had been with me all the time with my breast cancer. I had to adjust to my husband's loss and take my daughter and son for the help. My daughter and granddaughter-in-law were both nurses and stayed with me around the clock after my surgery.
Dr. Rudy Busby, a renowned surgeon, did my surgery and came and talked to me about the results. He said he removed the lower lobe of my right lung and took an extra slice off so he could get all the cancer, and he did.
Losing my husband during this time was heart-breaking, but I have such good memories. His last Christmas was 2000 as we all sat around the dining room table for dinner. We always held hands around the table - I was on one end of the table and he was on the other end and he looked at me and said he was so thankful his wife was with him. We were blessed to have celebrated our golden anniversary and had 56 years together. My son and daughter stepped in and helped fill in for him.
Dr. Wimmer, my oncologist, came into my room the third day after surgery and said he wanted to talk to me about my operation. I was so sick, and I said to come back another time, that I was too sick to talk with him. He said, "I will but you won't have to take any treatments." I said, "Dr. Wimmer, come back and talk to me. I can listen to that all day," and he did.
Dr. Burke always went by my door in the morning to speak to me. He would ask me how I was feeling and I would say, "OK." But on the third day, I said, "I'm sick." He said, "I know you are, but the third day is always the worst," and it was. I didn't realize what a serious operation this was.
Caring staff
I can never express to all of my doctors how much they meant to me. Dr. Yut, my family doctor, who insisted on me having my lung checked, came every day to see me as a friend. Dr. Proctor, who saved my life (and the doctors agreed) was always peeking in my room as a friend. Then Dr. David Smith, who also saved my life when I had breast cancer, would check in on me. Dr. Rudy Busby, my lung surgeon, was there constantly - he was special, too.
When I was able to go home and then made my first visit to Dr. Busby's office to be checked, he and his wife came into the room (his wife is his nurse) clapping their hands and saying, "We are so glad to see you." I said, "You told me to come and I had an appointment." He said, "Oh, but it's so wonderful to see a live patient."
Well, here I am so blessed. I have had some major dental implants and my dentist, Dr. Murphy, looked at me and said, "Mary Sain, you are so blessed. Do you know why you are so blessed?" I said, "Well, maybe I know, but you tell me." He said, "With all you have been through, you are so positive." Some days it is so hard to keep a smile, but if I try, it will stay awhile. People at my church say they always love to see my smiling face, and that is the memory I hope they will always have of me.
Sharing the message
My ministry at my church is to send everyone a birthday card. My husband did this before he died, and later people would say, "I don't get a birthday card since Mr. Sain isn't here." So after praying over this, I decided it wouldn't take much energy to do that and the pleasure has been all mine.
My daughter, Linda Bradley of Eatonton, Ga., should accept some of the thanks because financially she backs so much I do for the church.
Now I must tell you how the Lord has blessed me with my cancer. First my breast cancer was on my left side. My lung cancer was on my right side. So you see, the Good Lord has balanced me. I will continue to thank Him every day for all my blessings and keep a smile.
Even my son, with a friend at the Kiwanis Club who was going through worrying about a suspected breast cancer, and she was getting depressed over all the negative opinions. My son told her to call his mother, she won't depress you. She did and she came through her cancer treatment fine. She thanks me for my help, which was just the way I am - you know - "whatever." She has had me as her guest for lunch, sent me flowers and cards thanking me so much for my help and inspiration.
So whoever is reading this: remember life can always be wonderful. I celebrated my 85th birthday June 2, 2011, and am so thankful for so much. I can still drive my car and even with my son here, I am pretty independent.

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