Breast Cancer Does Not Discriminate

 

Breast Cancer Survivor Ann Ring and her young daughtersWhen she felt a large lump under her arm in September of 2009, Ann Ring of Batesville made an appointment with her gynecologist, Dr. Clint Melton. “I wasn’t thinking I had breast cancer,” she said. “I was under 40, had yearly check-ups, and breast cancer didn’t run in my family, but I thought I should get it checked out.” Dr. Melton referred her to General Surgeon Dr. Steve Alexander who, after performing a lumpectomy, told Ann the devastating news: At just 36 years old, Ann did, in fact, have breast cancer.

According to Komen.gov, less than 10% of breast cancer cases occur in women under 40 years of age. Women over 40 and women who have a family history of breast cancer have a greater risk of developing it.

--------------------------------

But There’s Always Hope

At the time, Ann’s husband, Mike Ring, was living with a congenital heart defect and they had two young daughters (4 and 2 years old). They were also missionaries with Chi Alpha Multi-Campus Collegiate Ministries, a Christian campus ministry in Batesville. Relying on their strong faith, she and her family were determined to fight. “I had always been the one fighting alongside Mike while he went through his surgeries and complications. Suddenly, the roles were reversed,” Ann said.

White River Medical Center (WRMC) in Batesville is staffed with qualified physicians, surgeons, oncologists, radiologists, and pathologists, and offers a variety of treatment options for patients experiencing cancer. It was there that Ann chose to receive treatment.

Ann had chemotherapy treatment at the Batesville Oncology Clinic and radiation treatment at the WRMC Cancer Care Center. “Dr. Desikan and Dr. Allgood were amazing. The physicians and clinic staff were very caring and compassionate,” said Ann.

-----------------------------

Treatment May Not Be Easy

“The first chemo I had was nicknamed ‘The Red Devil,’ and was very powerful. My reaction to it was not pleasant at all and I started losing my hair quickly. The feeling you get when your hair starts to fall out is indescribable,” said Ann.

She was treated with that drug, then another, while undergoing radiation therapy. Although the cancer was only in one breast, Ann made the decision to have a double mastectomy, or the removal of both breasts, followed by reconstructive surgery.

“The entire experience took about a year’s time. My biggest motivation was my family. My children were my inspiration and I knew I had to beat this for them,” Ann said.

Sadly, Mike passed away in September 2010 of heart failure.

“He was always helping people and was able to help me through this traumatic time. He really took care of me,” Ann said.

---------------------------------------

But It Will Be Worth It

Today, Ann still has yearly check-ups to ensure the cancer has not returned, and so far all results have been negative for cancer. If the pattern continues, she will officially be in full remission next year.

Ann and her daughters Petra, now 8, and Zoe, now 5, are still very active in ministry. Ann remained at Chi Alpha, where she is now a licensed campus pastor.

Experts say women with breast cancer have a higher survival rate if the cancer is detected early. More treatment options are available for those who find it early. White River Health System (WRHS) has an online health library at www.whiteriverhealthsystem.com with many articles relating to breast cancer. WRHS also has mammography and imaging services available in Batesville, Mountain View, and Cherokee Village to help better detect breast cancer. Experts suggest that women ages 20-39 should have clinical breast exams every three years. After 40, a clinical breast exam and a mammogram are recommended each year.

Getting necessary screenings is something Ann knows the importance of first hand. “Even if you are unsure about the smallest thing, get it checked. Don’t think you can’t get breast cancer just because you don’t have risk factors,” she said.

Ann listened to her body, took action at the first sign of trouble, and accessed the necessary treatment, which saved her life.

“I’m so happy to be here with my family and to be able to carry on the dream I started with my husband of serving God through missions.”