PITTSBURG — After being diagnosed with breast cancer, Shelly Minton found comfort in listening to other cancer survivors and now encourages everyone to join in on the conversation.
On July 5, of this year, Minton was diagnosed with breast cancer after finding a lump in one of her breasts.
“When the doctor told me it was cancer I started shaking,” she said. “You never think you are going to be diagnosed with cancer.”
Minton said she realized some women may not feel comfortable with sharing that they have breast cancer — after meeting many people in her community, who have also been diagnosed, she now believes sharing about it is important.
“I want to talk openly with everyone about it — other people are going through this,” she said.
“I don’t want anyone to be ashamed for talking about it… we need to talk very openly about this.”
She said she wants to share the importance of breast exams and mammograms to catch cancer earlier — potentially saving lives. Minton she was lucky to catch it early, others were not as fortunate, she said.
“Everytime we turn around there is another woman — and even men — getting breast cancer,” she said. “There are a lot in this community.”
Minton said it has been helpful to hear their stories — stories she can relate to, she said.
“The doctors say to not compare yourself to other people because everyone’s experience will be different,” Minton said. “But, it is still comforting to hear their stories — you know the person on the other hand can relate.”
Minton shared her diagnosis with her friends, family and neighbors, which brought a huge support group, she said — her table is covered with over 50 cards, she said.
“My family and friends have been uplifting and motivating,” she said. “I have such great support.”
To show their support — all the while raising awareness — her neighbors made signs and put them on their lawns, which said “We stand with Shelly.”
Minton also found support at the hair salon, chemotherapy cost her hair except for her eyebrows and eyelashes.
“When you are told you have cancer you first think ‘Oh my God am I going to die?’ and then ‘Oh my God am I going to lose my hair?,’” she said.
Minton said her hairstylist Brian Hendrickson, helped her transition from long hair to short, to no hair at all.
“He helped me transition, the chunks of hair I was losing was pretty traumatizing and it helped me with that,” she said.
A nonprofit organization Angels Among Us, which assists cancer patients financially and in many other ways -- such as drives to the hospital and making home cooked meals, heard of Minton’s hair loss and wanted to help too. The organization helped her purchase a wig.
Minton said the Founder Diana Polston even offered to drive her to the hospital if Minton was not feeling up to it.
“I plan to become an “Angel” after this,” she said. “They do great things,
“Diana is a beautiful lady.”
About Minton’s cancer
Minton found a lump on one of her breasts at the end of June. Her doctor sent her down for an MRI — the results showed that a biopsy was in order.
Minton said she didn’t think it was going to be such an urgent situation, but the doctors assured her it was necessary.
On her way back from a trip to Dallas on July 5, the doctor called her back and told her it was cancerous and aggressive — she needed to have it removed.
Undergoing an MRI, they found a positive note — the cancer has not spread to her lymph nodes.
“That was a huge positive for me,” she said.
Minton also found out she is triple negative which means she doesn't respond to hormonal therapy — instead she must endure chemotherapy, she said.
Around August 29 Minton began her chemotherapy treatments — to prevent the spread of the cancer. Her last treatment will be October 31.
“I’m looking forward to that day,” she said.
Minton is currently waiting on the results of genetic testing, if she is positive for BRCA gene mutation it would mean the cancer could be passed down to her daughter.
The mutated gene carries a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancers.
At the end of November Minton will undergo a bilateral mastectomy.
Minton said she encourages people to do monthly breast exams and for those who have cancer to keep going strong.
“Don’t give up, keep fighting,” she said.
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.