Lisa Briggs, Breast Cancer Survivor
(LEXINGTON, NC - September 24, 2014) Life was good for Lisa Briggs and her five-year-old daughter, Emma. She loved her job as a customer advocate at Flow Motors in Winston-Salem and a devoted single mom, she cherished every moment with her young daughter. It came as no surprise upon learning she had breast cancer that the first words out of her mouth were “don’t let me die--I have a five-year-old and a lot of living yet to do.”
It is almost one year ago to the day that Briggs received her initial breast cancer diagnosis. Having completed a twelve month journey of mammograms, biopsies, surgery and radiation treatments, she emerges with renewed faith and determination to serve as an inspiration to others. “There is a lot of life yet to live, and I want other breast cancer victims just beginning their journey to realize that,” she said.
Briggs, who lives in northern Davidson County, has no family history of breast cancer, so it came as a surprise when a routine mammogram revealed something suspicious. She was called back for other views followed with the recommendation that a stereotactic biopsy be performed. “I was on my lunch break at work when the doctor’s office called to say the biopsy results were in,” she said. “Since they can’t release the results over the phone, I needed to come into the office.” She said her first thought was to wait. “I was that sure the results would be negative,” she said, but after thinking about it for a while, she called the doctor’s office back later that day to say she was on her way.
“I’m not sure that I even heard the doctor say Stage 1 breast cancer,” she said. “I only remember thinking that you can’t let me die. “ The next thing she remembers is standing in the parking lot outside the doctor’s office and her boss, Amy Reynolds, wheeling in. “She put me in the car and said everything will be alright,” she said. “I was in a total state of shock.”
Things moved quickly after that. Briggs, under the care of Marissa Howard-McNatt, M.D., director of Wake Forest Baptist Health’s Breast Care Center, was quickly scheduled for a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous lesion. Since the lesion was deeper than first indicated, Dr. Howard-McNatt tested for lymph node involvement. Those results came back normal.
Only three weeks had elapsed from the time she had her routine mammogram until she underwent her lumpectomy. The next course of treatment would involve daily radiation therapy for six weeks at the Cancer Center-Lexington.
“Every aspect of my care at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center was first-class, from the volunteers who greeted me to my surgeon, Dr. Howard-McNatt,” Briggs said. “I had no idea that there was a Cancer Center in Lexington until the doctor recommended it.” When you’re facing 30 treatments given daily for six weeks, Briggs admitted the convenience of the Cancer Center in Lexington was a plus. “I have received the same first-class care here as I did at the medical center in Winston-Salem,” she said.
The Cancer Center-Lexington provides outpatient chemotherapy and radiation therapy and is located on the Wake Forest Baptist Health Lexington Medical Center campus. Six years ago, Lexington Medical Center and Wake Forest Baptist expanded cancer services through the provision of radiation oncology, a first-time service in Davidson County.
Briggs’ positive attitude, great personality and sense of humor make it easy for her to quickly form tight bonds with other people. “The entire staff at the Cancer Center-Lexington and I hit it off from the start,” Briggs said. “I couldn’t ask for better, more personalized treatment. Laura Allen, M.D., radiation oncologist, and the entire staff quickly put me at ease and even understood my quirky sense of humor.” She admits that even though her radiation therapy has ended, she and the staff still stay in touch.
Briggs knows that she beat the odds and has great opportunity to live a long, fulfilling life. “My breast cancer was diagnosed in the early stages, and I knew I was in good hands from the beginning,” she said. “I put my faith and trust in my health care team at Wake Forest Baptist in Winston and Lexington, and most important--in the hands of the Good Lord.” She was also blessed with a strong family support system and an understanding employer.
Briggs said she feels great and is so blessed to be able to once again focus on what’s really important—her daughter, Emma. “Emma is six now and very much into sports,” she laughed. “We have a great time together.”
With the worst of her journey behind her, Briggs offers advice to women everywhere. “Women must be vigilant in getting mammograms and doing self-breast exams,” she said. “Also, know your family history as heredity can play a big part in the likelihood of developing breast cancer.”
But most important, Briggs encourages all women in the early stages of diagnosis and treatment to remain positive. “I believe your attitude goes a long way in treatment and recovery,” she said. “Be ready to fight when breast cancer rears its ugly head. I, along with many other women, am living proof that there can be many happy days ahead.”
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