Lifelong Huntersville resident Alberta Davis can’t put her finger on why, but when her doctors confirmed she had breast cancer, she wasn’t afraid.
Davis – who turned 94 on Dec. 20 – discovered the small lump in her right breast when she was 43. More than 50 years later, the cancer has never returned.
Mary Robinson, 73, is one of Davis’s seven children and said her mother’s story is one of hope. “Mama is strong-willed, and you don’t tell her what she can’t do. She’ll tell you she can do it.”
Within two weeks of discovering the early stage cancer, Robinson said, her mother had “real radical surgery,” during which doctors “rolled back the skin, took all the lymph nodes and removed the tissue from her breast and (under)arm.” The procedure, performed at what used to be Memorial Hospital in Charlotte, took nearly six hours, Robinson said. But within a week, Davis was back home with just two small balls to be used for therapy.
“She’d roll them up and down the wall. That was her therapy and exercise to keep her from getting stiff,” Robinson said.
Davis, a retired cafeteria worker, said she had never met anyone with breast cancer before her experience and knew nothing about it.
The doctors “did everything they could to help. They told me it wouldn’t be bad, and it wasn’t,” Davis said.
Robinson stayed with her parents as Davis recovered over the next four months, helping care for the four siblings – between the ages of 13 and 18 – who lived at home. “She still had a family to raise,” Robinson said.
With the advances in treatment and procedure options in the past 50 years, Robinson said if her mother had cancer today, doctors would be able to remove only the lump and use chemotherapy. “She didn’t have the modern equipment, and you had to rely on your doctor and the help from family and friends. Basically, you had to encourage yourself.”
Davis said she has never worried that the cancer would return. The doctors “said it wouldn’t, and I took them at their word.”
Robinson said she hopes that women diagnosed with breast cancer can take encouragement from her mother’s story and comfort from knowing Davis beat cancer with far less than is now available.
“Sometimes you have to encourage yourself; that’s what she did,” Robinson said. “It’s time to start believing (in God) because in the days ahead, you’re going to need him.”
“It’s not going to be easy, because life’s not easy, (but) you can pull yourself up and keep going.”
Trenda: 704-358-5089; Twitter: @htrenda
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