Trust what your body is telling you.
These are words that breast cancer survivor Donita Plemmons had to learn the hard way after she was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma in 2009.
“I had found a knot actually five years prior to my diagnosis and went straight to my gynecologist. She did an ultrasound and told me it was a fibroid adenoma,” said Plemmons.
The knot never went away, and mammogram after mammogram kept giving the doctor the same result. Until one night she found blood.
“I was in the tub and shaving my legs and I looked down and saw blood on my forearm. I looked around and I didn’t see anything, and then I realized it was coming from my nipple.”
She rushed right back to her doctor the next morning who did another ultrasound and still said it didn’t seem abnormal.
“I said ‘I’m done with this’ and I insisted on getting a second opinion and so I got a surgical oncologist to look at it. He did an MRI and said he would be surprised if he saw anything, but the discharge raised his suspicion.”
Plemmons knew something was wrong when he called her a couple of days later on Memorial Day weekend.
“I was standing in the front yard and just looked back at my husband Jeff and just started crying. He asked what was wrong and I told him I have cancer. He came running and was holding me. He called my mom and my whole family came over, and by the time they got out here I think I had cried so much I felt numb. I couldn’t even cry anymore.”
After a sleepless night, Plemmons said she wiped away her tears and woke up with a fighting attitude.
“I thought this is God’s plan, either I’m going to make it or I’m not going to make it and it’s not anything I can do except just keep praying.”
The knot that was removed from her breast was about the size of a quarter and was right behind her nipple. She decided on having a mastectomy with heavy chemotherapy afterward.
“It came back as cancer of the breast and hormone fed. I had been on birth control since my early twenties,” said Plemmons.
She was 36 at the time, and the doctors told her they were going to hit her hard with chemo because of her age. She took 18 months of chemotherapy and lost all of hair, but that didn’t stop her from doing what she loved.
“I think the biggest thing that drove my family crazy when I decided I was still going to coach cheerleading. I coached in my wig and I don’t think any of the little girls knew what I was going through. It drove my husband crazy, but I did it.”
Throughout her 18 months of chemo, Plemmons said she was lucky and had it pretty easy.
“I literally would go to sleep during my treatments. Occasionally I had some nausea but I would eat and it would fill that pain.”
She had the DNA genetic testing done to see if her mom had the gene, or if she passed it on to her daughter.
“I think the results were something like 80 percent positive that she doesn’t have the gene. That made me feel a lot better. As a mother, the last thing you want to do is pass that on to your child.”
Seven years later, Plemmons has been a foster parented and adopted three children, opened a successful restaurant in Old Fort, and thanks her family and God everyday she is still here.
“My family was my support system. It it wasn’t for Jeff’s family and mine, I don’t know what I would have done,” she said.
Although she is reminded constantly of the road she has been down, she doesn’t let that stop her from enjoying the present.
“It’s a life scar. It reminds me every day when I get dressed. It’s a road I’ve been down and crossed.”