Survivor Feature Profiles by Melissa Karrer, Photography by Phillips Mitchell
In salute of Breast Cancer Awareness Month TOPS is proud to share the stories of 23 survivors.
Meet Paula Howard.
Paula had her annual mammogram 366 days from the previous one. In that time, three tumors had started growing in her left breast that were too small to detect with monthly self-exams. Shock and panic ensued for about two weeks and then one day she woke up thinking, “I’m tired of this. Get it done.”
She decided on having a double mastectomy, despite being encouraged to have a lumpectomy. She recalls, “I followed my gut feeling. Something inside was telling me that three tumors appearing at once was a sign of bigger things to come.”
Paula found support in everyone! Her husband, Craig, who is “always holding my hand, sometimes to pull me forward, sometimes to reel me back in” went to every appointment with her. Her parents, in-laws, friends, coworkers and even total strangers helped and prayed. Her biggest challenge was allowing others to take over her mom duties and missing her children’s activities. Alex, who just started college; Mollie in the 5th grade; and Garrett in the 4th grade are all very active in cross-country, track, music, baseball and dance team.
Paula is a firm believer in keeping up the humor! She jokes, “There is no such thing as cancer of the funny bone.” She has also become a huge cheerleader for annual mammograms. She admits, “I’m one of the extremely lucky ones. Because of annual mammograms, my cancer was discovered so early it hadn’t reached my lymph nodes yet.” She encourages others to talk to their doctor about when you need to start having regular mammograms and get them!