For breast cancer survivor Vicki Crosby, 68, the journey has been one of strengthening her faith in God, supporting others who are battling breast cancer, celebrating life to its fullest and giving thanks.
“I never had treatments, so I never lost my hair,” Crosby said. “That was one less thing to worry about. I feel very fortunate in that respect. Most people might say why me, Lord; but my outlook was why not me, and through that experience I was able to more or less counsel or advise other ladies.
“In fact, I had two teachers at school when I came back to teach. I told them to go to a doctor immediately and get it checked out. I believe God had allowed me to have cancer so I could be of help to others. That’s just the way I choose to look at it.”
In 1986 at age 36 Crosby was diagnosed with breast cancer, having a mammogram on her 36th birthday where something had shown up.
“I felt nothing, but they did an ultrasound, and then the doctor said that we have to talk about this,” she said, noting that she had a lump that was examined on her 29th birthday that turned out to be benign.
She decided to get a double mastectomy, after the first breast had been removed, and a year later reconstructive surgery was done.
“Now I go every two years to get chest X-rays unless something shows up, and I always get my annual physical,” she said.
Impact on the family
She and her husband, George, just celebrated 25th anniversary and live in Burns. She refers to George as her precious angel. They met after she had gone through her battle with cancer.
“He’s one of the most decent, honest, caring, compassionate Christian men you’ll ever want to meet,” she said. “God sent him to me, and I’m keeping him. He has three children, but they are my three children. We have nine grandchildren, three great-grandchildren with another grandchild on the way.”
She went through a divorce from her first husband at the time of her cancer.
“For me, it wasn’t a case of not wanting to have the surgery, but I also didn’t want to have cancer in my body either,” she said. “And they caught it in the very beginning stages. It wasn’t even visible. I didn’t know I had it until the pathology report came back. Then I was staying at my parents’ house at the time, and my doctor called me. I got a second opinion from my regular doctor in Dickson for both the diagnosis and for the removal of the breasts.”
As for the removal of the breasts, it presented some discomfort and a period of adjustment.
“It hurt, and it was not fun, and I was all wrapped up for quite a while,” she said. “It’s like once they removed the breast, it was just like a concave hollowed-out chest. Then, I got the prosthesis at first. That was my biggest burdensome challenge because they weighed a lot back then. It wasn’t like they were made of foam or anything like that. They were heavy. I called them Fred and Ethel. I’d take off my bra like slingshot, throw Fred and Ethel in the drawer, and I’d say night-night see you tomorrow.”
She added that the prosthesis often made her feel like she was going to topple over, but mentally and emotionally she felt strong and was at peace.
“I’m a Christian, so I know the Lord is gonna take care of me, one way or the other,” she said. “And I had a lot of good support through my family and a lot of friends as well as my teacher family at the time. Mentally, I think I handled it pretty well. Of course, in the solitude of my own home, I might have a little meltdown. But that’s to be expected.”
She has also participated in Relay 4 Life, which passed its goal of $60,000 this year, having moved the event from June to September.
She also finds a lot of support at the Dickson Senior Center.
“I take Zumba two times a week and a group of us from the center did a 30 minute Zumba routine at Relay For Life this year,” she said.
Crosby said that cancer has taught her some valuable lessons on putting things in perspective.
“There is always someone else worse off than you,” she said. “I volunteer one day a month at the Sarah Cannon Center over at Natches; and when I see the folks come in for chemo or for radiation treatments, I think to myself how lucky I was that I did not have to go through that. So, our main job as a volunteer is to make people feel better, show them a friendly face so if they want to talk, they can. Everything is totally confidential.”
Crosby was a good friend of Marilyn White, the longtime Oakmont School bookkeeper who recently lost her battle with cancer.
“I taught Marilyn’s son, Jeff, in second grade,” she said. “We would all go to Marilyn. She was the heart of Oakmont. I taught at what’s called the old Oakmont where the education building is now over behind Dickson Middle School. That was built in 50-something. I started there in 1972. I was there 13 years; then moved out to the new Oakmont out on Highway 46 near the Roxy Theatre, and I was there for 17 years and retired in 2002 — all of my teaching in the second grade.
“Marilyn was a fighter. If she were in pain, you wouldn’t know it because she was not going to let on. At (Relay for Life) we have the Survivor Lap. She wasn’t a survivor; she was a warrior. She had so many people that loved and cared about her.”
Crosby said that the battle to beat breast cancer has changed over the years with new meds and treatments.
“You can now be checked for the BRCA gene or get sisters or daughters to get checked for that gene that is possibly linked to cancer,” she said. “I had never heard that before.”
She noted that some who have battled breast cancer may think in the back of their mind, that it may return.
“I’ve known people that have battled cancer two, three, even four times,” she said. “I’d once heard that one out of every eight women would get breast cancer, but I don’t know what it is now. For me, I know that God will take me in His timing and His way.”
Crosby has some straightforward advice for those facing breast cancer that she feels will apply to life in general.
“Take one day at a time and live it,” she said. “Love the people that love you back and just be yourself. And don’t forget to plan ahead no matter what. Set goals and make wishes for the future.”