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Christy MacDonald Believes in Being Proactive About Breast Cancer Screenings

Publication: The Dallas Morning News
David Buice, Belo Content Studio

Christy MacDonald’s family has fought breast cancer for several generations. Both her great-grandmother and grandmother had it, and her mother is now a five-year survivor. Given this legacy, Christy began getting an annual mammogram at age 35.

That proved to be a wise decision. Her first two mammograms showed nothing unusual, but everything changed last June when her physician found a suspicious spot in her left breast.

Following Her Instincts

To get the clearest, most accurate picture of Christy’s condition, Dr. Archana Ganaraj, breast surgeon at Texas Breast Specialists—Presbyterian Dallas, a part of Texas Oncology, conducted additional, extensive testing that included 3D mammography, ultrasound and high-resolution MRI scanning. Christy also underwent genetic screening to evaluate her risk for any other forms of cancer.

As testing proceeded, Christy became more and more convinced that she had cancer. Her gut instincts were correct. But because it had been detected so early, Christy received some good news as well. Her stage 1A left breast invasive ductal carcinoma was small and had not spread outside her breast tissue. Not only did Christy’s condition look to be very treatable, but the odds were also with her. Women with breast cancer that has not spread outside the breast have a 99 percent survival rate.

Taking Fate Into Her Own Hands

Dr. Ganaraj next presented Christy with three treatment options: a lumpectomy, removal of her left breast or a double mastectomy. She elected for the double mastectomy and resolved to do whatever it took, as she says, “to get this thing out of my body and go on with life.” She was still a young woman with a rewarding career as a pharmaceutical rep, a loving husband and two small boys who needed their mother. And, as a dear friend reminded her, every case of cancer is different — as is every outcome.

Dr. Ganaraj performed Christy’s double mastectomy on Aug. 8 using an innovative technique that allowed her plastic surgeon to begin the first stages of breast reconstruction immediately. “We were able to preserve all of her skin, including her nipples, through bilateral total skin-sparing mastectomies with immediate reconstruction — a superior cosmetic outcome,” she says. Early detection also helped spare Christy both chemotherapy and radiation.

Still, her recovery was slow and painful. Her first line of support was always her family: her husband Brent, their two sons, her mom and her mother-in-law. She also leaned on a vast network of friends willing to help in any way they could. Two special friends in particular, one a breast cancer survivor and the other a physician, gave her guidance about what lay ahead.

Living Life Passionately

Since then, Christy has steadily improved. Barely two months following her double mastectomy, she has resumed her career and returned to her daily routine. She and Brent have also started a home remodeling project they had planned before her diagnosis, and much of her weekend time is spent watching her older son play baseball, soccer and golf. A dedicated runner herself, Christy hopes to lace on her running shoes again soon.

In the meantime, Christy has become a passionate and determined advocate for mammograms and regular screenings. In addition to making her fight a bit easier, Christy says that early detection afforded her the opportunity to be more reflective about both her condition and her prognosis. “I’ve learned much about life and about myself since last year,” she says. “Until you’ve gone through something like cancer, you don’t realize how precious life truly is.”

While Christy faces additional reconstructive surgery in Nov., and although she knows there’s still reason for concern, she has no time for self-pity. “I’m here to live another day, and as long as I’m living, family is number one. It’s time to enjoy the hugs.”

Texas Oncology stands at the forefront in the fight against all forms of cancer and offers its breast cancer patients a variety of the latest treatment options. To learn more, visit www.texasoncology.com/types-of-cancer/breast-cancer.

Read the full story at The Dallas Morning News.

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