Denise Humphrey of Bogart fought breast cancer and won.
The New Jersey native who moved to the Athens area five years ago, is a four-month breast cancer survivor.
After always having cystic problems with her breast, Humphrey noticed one looked different and had a small lump, but initially let it slide.
“(My breast) caved in a little, and I thought to myself, ‘You’re 56 years old. It’s time,’ ” Humphrey said. “I let it go for close to a year, and I stopped having caffeine, because that will make a cyst go away, but it was still there.”
After realizing that something wasn’t right while she was at work, Humphrey decided to make a visit to her OB/GYN.
“She sent me for a mammogram the next day, and after that, we did an ultrasound and a MRI,” she said. “I had the whole nine yards that first day because they diagnosed me after the ultrasound.”
After being diagnosed with breast cancer on Nov. 11 of last year, she began five months of chemotherapy in December, had a mastectomy in May, five weeks of radiation and then reconstructive surgery on Aug. 24.
“I was stage two by the time I got to the doctor,” she said. “All in all, if you had to go through this, I had the best of it.”
Humphrey kept a positive attitude the entire time.
“I decided on the way home that I was going to be very strong about this,” she said. “There would be no whining and complaining. This is what we are dealt with.”
After calling her best friend on the way back from the doctor’s office, she told her husband when she got home. Both thought she was joking.
“I didn’t tell my daughters and son until the treatment plan was in place, because the first thing people do is ask you what are you going to do, and I didn’t know,” she said. “My sisters were upset because they thought that changed the family history, but it didn’t.”
Humphrey had post-menopausal breast cancer, which isn’t hereditary.
Her children, sisters and other family members only have to worry about being diagnosed themselves as the general public.
“My brother was upset, too,” she said. “My brother’s best friend, a man I’ve known for 45 years, called to say if there was anything he could do, to let him know.”
Then he set the mood for the entire ordeal.
“When he started to get off the phone, he’s like, ‘Hey, try to get a pair of double D’s out of this,” she said. “I just cracked up, and I said, ‘That’s perfect. That’s going to set the tone.’ We’ve made a joke out of everything, and I think that’s helped a lot.”
While keeping a positive attitude, Humphrey has been out of work at her job at Lowe’s since January, and she misses it.
“You know when you’re going in a store that you’re very familiar with, and everything is moved around? That’s what I do,” she said. “I don’t know if I’m going to be able to go back to it.”
According to Humphrey, the hardest part of the journey was her reconstructive surgery. In the operation that was performed on her, called a TRAM, doctors took muscles and fat from her stomach and moved it to her chest, forming a new breast.
“I was on the couch. I couldn’t move, couldn’t watch television and couldn’t focus on anything,” she said. “After about three weeks, I started feeling better.”
She had support from all of her family, friends and loved ones, including her best friend Bobby, whom she calls her sister.
“Bobby and the pastor and a couple of the other ladies at church prayed over a prayer cloth,” she said. “I wore it inside my bra, right against where the tumor was. They prayed over it, and I know that’s why it didn’t get any worse than it would, because God had his hands on me. I didn’t worry one second through this whole ordeal because I felt like God had his hand on my heart.”