Breast cancer survivor grateful for early detection

It was in October 2016 when Shelby Askew was first diagnosed with DCIS (ductal carcinoma in situ) breast cancer.

“I was scheduled to have surgery in 2016 and my doctor needed a mammogram before they could clear me, so I went for my annual and that is when they found the cancer,” she told The Northeast Georgian.

Askew, of Mt. Airy, said there were no signs because of where the cancer was located, in the milk duct near the nipple.

“I would of never known it was there if I had not had the mammogram,” she said.

DCIS is a non-invasive cancer where abnormal cells have been found in the lining of the breast milk duct, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation (NBCF)

“The atypical cells have not spread outside of the ducts into the surrounding breast tissue,” it states. “Ductal carcinoma in situ is very early cancer that is highly treatable, but if it’s left untreated or undetected, it can spread into the surrounding breast tissue.”

The NBCF states the earliest stages of cancers are called “carcinoma in situ.” Carcinoma means “cancer” and in situ means “in the original place,” it states.

“There is no history in my family, which led me to do genetic testing to see if it was hereditary or estrogen cancer,” she said.

Askew said her results were estrogen-based, which she considered a blessing for her two daughters.

“My first step was the biopsy, which led to my first surgery and then the news ... yes, it was cancer,” she said.

Askew said, “You have cancer,” is something you’re never ready to hear.

“Many emotions ran through me,” she said. “I knew I was gonna have to make some life-changing decisions.”

Askew was faced with the decision of having a lumpectomy with six weeks of radiation and a five-year estrogen blocker, or what doctors said was not medically necessary – a double mastectomy.

“I chose the double mastectomy because it would lessen my chances of it coming back,” she said. “My next surgery would be a lumpectomy to clear my boarders until we could get my insurance to clear me, which would not be until January of 2017.”

And on Jan. 30, 2017, Askew said she said goodbye to “the girls.

“I was in the hospital for a week due to a few complications and released on Feb. 3, 2017,” she said.

But while waiting to be released, Askew said she received a phone call that changed everything.

“It was my doctor telling me I was cancer free – what a glorious day and even better, the next day was my birthday,” she said. “I have to say, that was the best birthday present ever.”

After undergoing a double mastectomy, Askew underwent three reconstruction surgeries, her last completed Aug. 10. While her journey has been a lengthy one, Askew said she’s learned patience through all of it.

“And when I look back, I see the Lord has been by my side the whole time,” she said. “My doctors have been amazing and I cannot say enough about them and Northeast Georgia Medical Center as well.”

Askew said surviving breast cancer has changed her life “for the good and the bad.

“The good? That I do not take things for granted anymore and I don’t complain much, I just remain thankful I’m alive,” she said. “And, well, for the bad, I battle a lot in my mind. If something hurts or I hear of someone [battling cancer] that it has spread to another area or if someone dies, yes, I get huge anxiety, but through talking to other survivors, it’s normal to feel that way.”

Although she understands it will always be a battle, Askew said all she can do is pray and stay thankful.

“I stay very active with my job at Kay Clifton [Salon] as full-time hairstylist of 31 years, and with my children, Adelaide Askew, who is a student at Habersham Central High School fixing to graduate in 2019, and my other daughter, Harlie Alls, who lives in Atlanta with her husband, Kirby, and my granddaughter, Rowynn, and another grandson, Jackson, who will arrive Nov. 1,” she said.

Askew said she and her family, including her husband, Tom Askew, attend Free Chapel in Gainesville, and that she’s hoping to get back to working out soon.

“[I’m] always looking for a way to help others, especially being there for others fighting cancer,” she said. “My support group that has been around me has been my biggest blessing because they have been there every step of the way, but my main support has been Tom Askew.”

Shelby Askew said she can’t say enough good things about her husband, who she said has been her rock, encourager, nurse – “my everything.

“I thank the good Lord for him every day,” she said.

Shelby Askew said they decided to document her breast cancer journey through a table book, including photographs “of every step of the way.

“It will be called, ‘The Survivors Book,’ but it will be my personal book to show to who the Lord leads, and I hope it will help other women see that there is light at the end of the tunnel in this fight and that we are all in it together,” she said.

But Shelby Askew has one important request.

“I encourage you to get your annual mammograms and do your self-checks,” she said. “Don’t put them off – your life depends on it.”

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