Recent breast cancer survivor and Texas Oncology–Fort Worth 8th Avenue patient Tina Ross Melton was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2016, after finding a lump several months prior. She underwent an aggressive treatment plan of chemo, followed by a mastectomy. She is currently receiving daily radiation treatments and has started the maintenance portion of her chemotherapy. Today, Tina is "100 percent cancer-free" thanks to her oncology care team who taught her to trust.
Here's Her Full Story
Busy Living, Working, Raising Kids
For the past four years, Tina Ross Melton has worked as marketing manager and publications specialist. She is also a single mother of three children: Christian, 17, Britney, 14, and Devin, 12. "Life was busy," she said.
"Before the diagnosis, I was just living a busy life with work and family," said Melton.
Twin Sisters, Similar Lump, Different Diagnosis
"In the fall of 2015, my twin [fraternal] sister, Gina Ross, found a lump in her breast," said Melton.
"Working in the medical field, Gina had her lump biopsied and was told that the lump was the result of drinking too many diet sodas."
Several months later, Melton found a lump in her breast while doing a routine self-exam.
"After talking with Gina, we assumed it was the same thing, since we have don't have a history of breast cancer," she added. "She told me to stop drinking soda, so that's what I did and left it alone for a while. It was a busy time for us, with the holidays, my birthday, and multiple trips planned.”
After six months, Melton's lump more than tripled in size. She scheduled an appointment with her gynecologist to have a mammogram in early 2016.
"It [the lump] was the whole bottom of my breast," said Melton. "It was so painful I couldn't touch it. I knew it wasn't normal, but it didn't start that way, it just took off."
Her gynecologist told her the lump was "most likely cancerous."
"My biopsy led to a diagnosis of stage III breast cancer," Melton said. "We talked about my options and what my journey would look like."
Aggressive Treatment, Compassionate Care
"My doctors created a very aggressive treatment plan with 18 weeks of chemo, followed by a single mastectomy, six weeks of daily radiation, and one year of maintenance chemo every three weeks," explained Melton. "I will have my other breast removed and undergo reconstructive surgery in early 2017."
Melton expressed gratitude for the doctors, nurses, radiation techs, and staff at Texas Oncology–Fort Worth 8th Avenue for making every visit as "pleasant and easy as it could be." When she met her medical oncologist, Dr. Sanjay Oommen, to begin her chemo treatments, she was "very nervous and very stubborn."
"I was a very scared little girl who didn't want to do what they said," shared Melton. "I didn't always make it easy for them, but they were understanding and patient, yet firm with what I needed to do to beat this cancer. My life has been changed forever."
Boosting Immunity and Hope
After undergoing 18 intensive chemo treatments, Melton's surgery was delayed by two weeks to strengthen her immune system.
"My immune system was practically non-existent," she said. "After five days of infusion treatment to boost my immune system, I was released for surgery."
After recovering from surgery with help from her sister-in-law, Melton received good news from Dr. Oommen.
"Dr. Oommen told me I was 100 percent cancer-free," shared Melton. "After my surgery, they found no cancer in my left breast and nothing in the lymph nodes."
Daily Smiles Brighten the Darkness
Four weeks after surgery, ready to start the maintenance portion of her treatment, Melton met radiation oncologist, Dr. Kathleen Shide. "She said there was a 30 percent chance of the cancer returning, but radiation would decrease that," Melton explained.
Melton began daily radiation treatments with Dr. Shide and her "awesome staff and techs" at Texas Oncology–Fort Worth 8th Avenue.
"Radiation has been a scary process that I didn't want to do at all," said Melton. "In fact, I cancelled my first two appointments, but Dr. Shide helped me see that I needed to do this so I could have the best chance for a long-term, cancer-free life."
Even though the early morning radiation treatments are a challenge, her radiation technicians are quick to deliver smiles.
"Once I see Amber and Jeannet, they always put a smile on my face," shared Melton.
A Holistic Approach to Recovery
Getting treatment in her community, and without having to travel, meant that Melton was surrounded by the loving embrace of her family and friends during her cancer fight.
"My family and friends have been my cheerleaders and my 'voice of reason' at times," said Melton. "For the first two weeks after learning I had cancer, my two youngest children wouldn't leave my side, except to attend school. My oldest was such a helpful hand with home things I couldn't do. My older sister, Jennifer Jennings, was by my side for every 8-hour chemo treatment. My twin sister, my brothers, and all of my in-laws have been a great support system. We have all grown closer and our family is much stronger for having gone through this journey together."
In addition to family, Melton received support from friends, God, her boyfriend, and even her "second family" at work.
"My faith in God has given me the confidence that I will be victorious in beating this cancer," she said. "I've also started back at the gym, working on my cardio and stretching exercises, which feel great."
Taking time to laugh is also good medicine.
"I have awesome friends that keep me laughing, loving, and living my life through the entire process," said Melton. "We've gathered to play games, laugh, and take short breaks from all of this."
Having a loving relationship, as well as an understanding "work family" has allowed Melton to rest and recover.
"I have the support of a wonderful man who has shown me love and patience, and has been there for me in ways I didn't know I would need," she said.
Melton's circle of caregivers includes her "second family," Bill and Jan Watt, owners, Unclaimed Freight Co. & Liquidation Sales in Fort Worth.
"I've never had to worry about time I missed due to treatment and surgery affecting my job," she explained. "They have gone 'above and beyond' what most other bosses would, and have become my second family."
A New Life
"Through all of this, I have continued to work, raise my kiddos, and live my life," said Melton. "I am not allowing this to consume who I am or what I do."
"Believing your doctors and trusting they really care about you as a person and your life is important, but not always easy," Melton added.
"My doctors had to prove to me that they had my best interests in mind," she said. "When I began to trust them, I felt at peace. I can honestly say my doctors will always be in my thoughts for the rest of my life."
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