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Tuesday, June 14, 2011 - Breast Cancer Patient Celebrates Life, Friendship and the Thousands of Memories Still to Come

Who’s your best friend? Is she the person who goes shopping with you and talks you out of buying yet another white shirt?  Is she the person you can count on to join you for a girls’ weekend or at least a night out?  Maybe she’s the person you go to when you need to vent, want an honest opinion, need a shoulder to cry on or a person to laugh with.  For Missy Pointer, her best friend is the woman who saved her life.

Missy Pointer, left, knows the importance of staying active, even while receiving radiation treatments at Thompson Cancer Survival Center at Methodist. Following a recent treatment, Missy, her daughter Alyson, center, and best friend Karen, right, attended a class at an art studio for a little fun and relaxation.

In March 2010, Missy was attending the Women’s Today Expo with her best friend Karen Larabee. It was one small action during that event that makes Missy credit her friend with saving her life.

Karen had picked up information about WBIR Channel 10’s breast self-exam initiative, Buddy Check 10.

“Karen handed me a packet and said, ‘We’re doing this,’” remembers Missy.

The following month, they began the program to remind each other to do their monthly breast self-exams.  Just four months after having started the program, Missy found a lump.  However, she didn’t report it immediately to her doctor.

“I’d just had a mammogram in May and it hadn’t show up then,” says Missy, who, at the age of 42 and with no family history of breast cancer, had hoped it wasn’t anything of concern. 

But when she found the lump again during her next month’s self-exam, she mentioned it to her primary care physician who sent her for an ultrasound and further testing. 

Missy was diagnosed with stage one breast cancer.  She underwent surgery for a lumpectomy and began four rounds of chemotherapy. 

Missy, who lives in Oliver Springs, had been traveling to Knoxville for her surgery and chemotherapy, but when it came time to begin her series of radiation treatments, fate and friends brought her to Oak Ridge and Thompson Cancer Survival Center at Methodist.

Missy was at Breast Cancer Awareness Night during an Oliver Springs High School basketball game when she began discussing her options for where she should receive her radiation therapy with friend and manager of Thompson Cancer Survival Center at Methodist, Audrey Ingram.  Missy liked what she heard about the cancer center and radiation oncologist Dr. Ken Strike.  She also liked the convenience of the Oak Ridge facility’s closer proximity to her Oliver Springs home.

Missy began radiation therapy at Thompson at Methodist in April.

“It’s been awesome,” says Missy of her experience at the cancer center.  “Everybody’s been so friendly.  I feel comfortable with the staff, and I feel that I can ask questions.” 

She says that she likes the easy system that patients use to check-in for appointments.  Patients each have a card they swipe upon arrival to alert staff that they are there. 

“They have a tight ship,” says Missy. 

Through consistent exercising and with a little help from her best friend Karen, Missy has done well throughout her whole cancer treatment.  Following each chemotherapy or radiation treatment, Karen makes it a point to provided Missy with a variety of welcome distractions.  They go to dinner, out to a movie or some other activity that takes Missy out of the house and away from opportunities to dwell on the cancer.

“Getting out of the house has been key to making me feel good,” says Missy, who also stays active with her church and by supporting her daughter who is in the band at Oliver Springs High School.

Missy is so grateful for Karen’s support and the role that she played in helping her to find the cancer and now battle it, that she shared her story with Robin Wilhoit, WBIR Channel 10 news anchor and spokesperson for the station’s Buddy Check 10 initiative.  Now, as part of their program, WBIR is following Missy during part of her radiation treatment at Methodist and post-treatment activity with Karen.

By sharing her experience, Missy is helping to emphasize the importance of doing breast self-exams. 

She says, “Do your checks.  If you don’t think they work – they do.” 

Her case is proof of what a self-exam can do and the true value of a best friend.