A decade after her diagnosis, breast cancer is ancient history for Terese Carson.
“I am still here 10 years later,” Carson said. “I had some complications along the way, but nothing we couldn’t deal with and get past. It’s quite a road to travel, but a lot of people come out on the good side.”
Carson is Roncalli High School’s vice president of institutional advancement and has been employed by the school for 16 years. But it was her sixth year that was the most challenging. While having two daughters attending the school, Carson was diagnosed with breast cancer Sept. 20, 2007.
“My oncologist told me the day you are diagnosed is the day they start calling you a survivor,” she said.
Genetics were not in Carson’s favor as seven other family members had been diagnosed with breast cancer.
“I had known for a very long time that there was a very good chance that I could be diagnosed with breast cancer, so I was always more like it was a ‘when’ rather than and ‘if’ kind of a thing. It gave me a lot of time to figure out what I would do if the time would come.”
Knowing her family history, Carson checked through screenings and self-exams to catch the cancer as early as possible.
“I found it myself,” she said. "Doing breast self-exams are so important. When my mother was diagnosed over 30 years ago she found hers herself as well. I had a mammogram just in May that showed that everything was clear. In September I had two masses in one of my breasts.”
Her form of cancer developed quickly as she was Stage 3 and Grade 3. The condition called for intense chemotherapy.
“Because I had an aggressive form of cancer I had to have an aggressive form of chemotherapy. Everyday you didn't know what to expect. Some days you are feeling good and can go about your normal routine. Some days you can't even get your head off the pillow. My oncologist told me that chemo is the gift of life. It was going to save me. That was how I tried to look at it.”
There were 10 chemotherapy sessions in all with multiple surgeries and radiation treatments. Finally, 18 months after her diagnosis, the cancer fears and frequent doctor visits were done. Carson credits her family and Roncalli for getting her through.
“Roncalli was awesome, three to four days a week meals were delivered to our house. So many people were praying for me, and I could feel those prayers."
Churches on the other side of town had Carson’s name on their prayer requests. Her mom was a cancer survivor and helped answer her questions. Carson’s daughters, Ali and Katie, got breast cancer tattoos on their ankles, as did Carson on the one-year celebration of being cancer-free.
“They were a big help to me through all of this," Carson said. “My mom lives in Ohio and having her as a survivor helped along every step of the way.”
Ten years later, Carson still celebrates every year with family or by running in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Her mission now is making sure women, including her daughters, are proactive in detecting the disease.
“Every woman should be getting screened,” she said. “As long as you are doing your screenings and your self-exams, hopefully if someone is unfortunately diagnosed, they will detect it fairly early.”