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  • Last modified 35 days ago (Oct. 18, 2017)

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Voyage through breast cancer easier with help

Staff writer

Women 60 years old are eight times more likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than women in their 30s.

Cynthia Barrett of Marion was a victim of that increased risk when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2013 at 58.

It wasn’t breast cancer’s first swing at her family. Her mother earlier had breast cancer. Her twin and another sister, however, have not.

“My head was in such a fog,” Barrett said.

When she was diagnosed, she worked at an assisted living center. During treatment, a friend told her to quit her job so she could focus only on getting better, so she moved in with the friend until all her treatment was done.

Her mother sent a weekly card to remind Cynthia she supported her daughter.

Other cards from people helped as well.

“All the support from all my friends and family was just overwhelming,” Barrett said. “I had such good support.”

She had her first surgery, a lumpectomy, April 22 of that year. A week later, physicians did a mastectomy.

“I just wanted to get it done,” Barrett said.

She had drainage tubes from the surgery for three weeks following the mastectomy.

She had chemotherapy, once every three weeks, over a span of months.

Her hair fell out days after her first chemotherapy treatment. She’d worn her hair in a ponytail that day, and when she removed the ponytail band, handfuls of hair came out along with it.

Friends shaved their heads as a show of support.

She chose to cover her bare head with a hat instead of a wig.

Another side effect of chemotherapy was an inescapable metallic taste in her mouth. She tried sucking on candy, tried eating with plastic utensils, tried everything she could think of, but still tasted metal.

“There was nothing I could do,” Barrett said.

After chemotherapy came daily radiation therapy.

“I was never in bad pain with any of it,” Barrett said.

In October 2013, friends organized a benefit to help with her medical expenses.

The event included a glow run around the county park and lake, bake sale, craft sale, live auction, dinner, and live band.

“I was so overwhelmed that day because of everybody who showed up at the benefit,” Barrett said.

The fundraiser brought in thousands of much-needed dollars to pay medical bills.

Even though she completed cancer treatment, the watch isn’t over.

“I go back every six months, still,” Barrett said.

Her six-month testing includes bone scans, chest x-rays, and mammograms.

“I wish women would know how important it is to get mammograms,” Barrett said. “People always think, ‘It can’t happen to me.’”

Last modified Oct. 18, 2017

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