The trinidad Guardian / Five hundred and twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes. That’s the measurement for a year of life. For Peggy Mitchell, one year meant being diagnosed with stage two breast cancer, having surgery to remove cancerous cells and being successfully treated for the disease.Mitchell, who turned 64 last week, is a retired laboratory technician who used to work at the Ministry of Health. For over ten years she has done yearly mammograms and health profiles to monitor her body.

“I started doing mammograms in my 50s because I kept hearing of a lot of people getting cancer. People I knew or who my friends and family knew,” Mitchell said in an interview with the Guardian on Sunday.

In January 2016, the time Mitchell usually did her routine tests, she decided that in addition to the mammogram, she would do a tumour marker, which is a diagnostic test for cancer.

The figures on the tumour marker was a little more elevated than it should have been so doctors advised her to do an ultrasound.

In March, after returning home from the United States, Mitchell, whose husband had done research and found Pink Hibiscus Breast Health Specialists, made an appointment to do an ultrasound.

“The initial test looked okay but they did another test and felt something on the side and advised that I do a biopsy. Even then, it didn’t seem like something to worry about, everything looked normal except for a slight change.”

When Mitchell did the biopsy, she was told there were malignant cancer cells in the tissue of her breast.

“I got the diagnosis and because of my relationship with the Lord, I didn’t take it hard. I always wondered how I would feel with that diagnosis but I was neutral and I said: ‘Lord, there is purpose in this thing, just show me. Help me to go through it.’ “

Her sense of calm on hearing the news, helped Mitchell to make some difficult decisions very quickly.

She asked her doctor for her options for treatment and was told she would need to do a lumpectomy to remove the tissue from her breast.

“I asked how quickly I could do it.”

Within two weeks, Mitchell was on an operating table.

“I remember we had a family vacation in May and I kept thinking I have to do this surgery so I would be able to go on the vacation.

“I asked the doctor to organise it as soon as possible. I did my pre-ops, CT Scans, MRIs and blood tests and went to WestShore and the surgery was done on March 15. I knew the Lord would help me, He gave me peace with it so the journey was not rough.”

Mitchell said her family was a praying and god-fearing one and credits her family’s support and God for making a big difference with the experience.

“God gave me peace, grace, and favour as He worked out every detail beautifully.”

After surgery, Mitchell went to the US to do radiation therapy at Stony Brook University Hospital where her sister worked.

“My sister was a source of comfort to me; she is a nurse in the patient’s advocacy department and every day as I went for radiation I would pass in her office to chat and after treatment sometimes we would go in the huge cafeteria for lunch.”

After six weeks of radiation, having already been told she would not have to do chemotherapy, Mitchell went on vacation with her family.

“My husband had to come back to Trinidad to work while I was doing the radiation. I never felt I was sick. Everything went well. While I was doing it we would go driving on weekend, I walked across the Brooklyn bridge. Because I didn’t have to do the chemo, the experience wasn’t bad for me.”

Mitchell said she was now an advocate for women getting tested early.

“I remember battling with fear to find out but I knew it was better I found out early. When you wait too long and get stage three or four it is so terrible. I knew that sometimes a mammogram wasn’t enough. If I hadn’t done the cancer marker I don’t know if I would be in the same situation.

“I would recommend that every woman gets tested because early detection is what saves your life. It doesn’t have to be a death sentence if you get it early. I know it isn’t a nice thing to deal with, people younger than me as well…”

One year later, tests show no evidence of disease in Mitchell’s body.

“I checked at Pink Hibiscus and they did an ultrasound and I believe I’m healed. Thank God. I claim my healing every day.

“I now live a life of thankfulness and gratitude to God, my family and friends. I am also more aware of taking care of my body…eating wholesome food, walking and keeping all my follow-up appointments.”

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The month is used as an annual international health campaign to increase awareness of the disease and to raise funds for research into its cause, prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure. The campaign also offers information and support to those affected by breast cancer.

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