Joyce’s story: “I was in the best shape of my life.”

Joyce Bingham

When Joyce Bingham found out she had breast cancer, she was in the best shape of her life.

“My first thought was, ‘I’ve got a 13 year old, how am I going to beat this?’ And that’s the attitude I took,” said Bingham.

At 48, she was diagnosed with an estrogen-fed cancer in her right breast after discovering a lump during a self check.

“It was kind of weird because it would be there and then it would disappear. Then it kind of looked bruised, so I went to the doctor and they couldn’t feel it, so they didn’t think anything about it.

It wasn’t until two months later at her regular checkup when the doctor did feel it.

“We did a mammogram and that’s when he saw it.”

Everything that followed after that moved very fast, Bingham said.

“They found the lump and within two weeks I had the biopsy done and surgery set up and scheduled. I will never forget the day because it was Aug. 25, the first day of school for my son at the junior high. I was having surgery, and he was going to junior high.”

She and her doctor decided on a lumpectomy.

“My tumor was right up next to the skin and it wasn’t down deep, so they recommended doing it that way because we had caught it in the really early stages.”

Her tumor ended up being small, less than a centimeter big. Her doctors thought she would only have to do radiation. That was until she had the genetic test done.

“They tested it and it came back I had a 37 percent of reoccurrence if I did not do chemo and radiation. To me that was a high chance of reoccurrence, so I did the chemo and radiation.”

Although the cancer isn’t genetic in her family, her sister was diagnosed with breast cancer only a few months before she was. Her sister is also a survivor and didn’t have to go through chemo.

“We kind of went through it together.”

After four cycles of chemo and 37 radiation treatments, Bingham said she maintained in pretty good health the entire time.

“I didn’t get sick or nauseated, but I did lose my hair. My family was my biggest support system, and my church, and the people here that I worked out with. I also had worked in the school system as a substitute, so I had a big support system at the schools.”

Now, at 54, Bingham is a group exercise instructor, a coach in the wellness center and an instructor in the pre-diabetic classes at the Corpening YMCA.

“Although I couldn’t workout during my chemo, the doctors told me one of the best things you can do for prevention is exercise. I’ve come back and I teach four cycle classes a week, and if I can bounce back, anybody can.”

She uses her experience with her breast cancer battle to encourage others to take care of their health.

“A lot of people have the attitude that they have been sick, they can’t do it and can’t come back. When that comes up I tell them, I’ve been through best cancer and was probably in the best shape of my life when I was diagnosed.”

Her advice to women is to continue to do self checks, and not to have the attitude that it can’t happen to them.

“It can happen to anybody. You know your body, and be persistent. When they said it wasn’t anything, I knew it was something. You know yourself better than anybody does.”