Mother’s love led her through tough choice

Published 5:42 pm Saturday, October 20, 2018

Marianne Hynum had a three-year-old son and she was going to do whatever it took to make sure she saw her little boy become a man.

Therefore, at the young age of 24, she made the choice to have both breasts removed after being diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer.

“Because of the size of the tumor, I had to have a mastectomy, so I opted to have both of my breasts removed because I didn’t want to do this again. I didn’t want to go to bed every night with the thought it could come back in the other one and just the worry. So I said I was going to be as aggressive as I could because I had a three-year-old at the time and I wanted to make sure I was there for him for as long as possible,” Hynum said.

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In January 2004, Hynum found a lump in her breast.

“I just happened to have an itch and when I went to scratch, I felt a lump,” she said, so the next day she called her doctor and was told to come in.

“He checked it and said it was definitely a lump, but that it was probably nothing to worry about because women my age have cysts all the time,” Hynum said.

The doctor explained that when women have menstrual cycles they sometimes will develop cysts and that the lump would probably go away since cysts usually change following a cycle.

At the conclusion of her doctor visit, Hynum said, she was prescribed some vitamins, told to lay off caffeine for the next four weeks and instructed to be aware of possible warning signs for anything more serious.

During that time, nothing out of the ordinary transpired.

When she returned, the lump was still there, so, Hynum said, the doctor ordered an ultra sound.

“But he (the doctor) said he still wouldn’t worry, because it might be a cyst that needs to be drained, so he set me up with the radiologist at River Region, who was a breast specialist,” Hynum said.

Because of her age, Hynum said, the doctor decided to just go ahead and do an ultra sound instead of a mammogram. Women who are young have dense breast tissue, she said, which makes it more difficult to detect everything on a mammogram.

“I will never forget the look on the doctor’s (radiologist’s) face. As soon as she put the ultra sound wand on my breast, her face went just completely blank and white. She started asking me all these questions about family history, had I been hit in the breast, was I breast feeding and, of course, the answer was no to all of these questions,” Hynum said. “Then, she just looked at me and said, ‘I want to do a biopsy of this right now.’”

At that point, Hynum said she began to worry.

“I was like excuse me; my husband didn’t even go with me because it was supposed to be nothing.”

Fortunately, a friend had accompanied her to the ultra sound appointment and immediately called Hynum’s husband.

After he arrived, the biopsy was performed.

“She (the radiologist) told me right then that she was 99 percent sure that I had breast cancer by the way it looked,” Hynum said.

The pathology report came back the next day, and the radiologist’s conjecture had been accurate. Hynum had cancer.

Invasive ductal carcinoma, is the most common type of breast cancer, Hynum said, but not in someone who is 24 years old.

Immediately, Hynum went to Jackson, where more tests were done and meetings were held with surgeons.

After meeting with a plastic surgeon and having decided on a “game plan” as to what type of reconstruction surgery would work best for her, the double mastectomy was scheduled.

“I was so busy with doctor’s appointments, getting things scheduled — my job and making sure my child was taken care of, I really didn’t have time to think about what was going on.”

The surgery was performed in Jackson, Hynum said, and she was in the hospital for three days.

“The doctor and plastic surgeon were wonderful.”

Hynum said she had opted to have tissue expanders inserted into her chest wall as part of the reconstructive technique. Although this procedure delays healing time, Hynum said, there is less scarring.

“This took a little longer because they have to go in and expand the tissue, and I did all that while healing up from my mastectomy before starting chemotherapy,” she said.

Once her body was on the mend from surgery, which was about eight weeks, Hynum started her chemo.

“I did eight rounds of chemotherapy. I opted to do them every other week since I was young,” she said.

“And I was lucky, my body could handle it, but it was not a walk in the park. Chemo is not fun by any means.”

While on chemo, Hynum had to be conscience of germs, which she said, was a challenge with a toddler who went to daycare.

“But I was very fortunate. I had God on my side looking out for that, because other than being on chemo, I didn’t get any other illnesses at the time,” she said.

However, she did not escape all the side effects of chemotherapy.

“It was about two weeks after my first treatment that I noticed my hair was kind of shedding big time,” Hynum said.

“And then about a week after that I noticed my scalp was just hurting. It was very tender to the touch like a sunburn, and my hair was falling out by the handfuls. So I took the plunge to go ahead and shave my head.

“It was traumatizing for me because for a woman to be bald, it just kind of knocks you down and at 24, I had lost both my breasts and now I was bald. I had lost everything that had kind of made me feel like a woman,” she said. “It was very hard, but I knew my hair would grow back, and I had to do what I had to do for my child.”

And to support his wife, Hynum said, her husband shaved his head at the same time.

Prior to receiving her cancer diagnosis, Hynum said, she and her husband had been trying to have another child, but plans were altered.

“They told me I could definitely not get pregnant within the first two years being off chemo, and they really wanted me to wait at least five years,” she said.

Also, because chemo puts you into menopause, Hynum said, she experienced several issues that made her decidenot to have any more children of her own.

But this did not keep her from growing the family. She and her husband, Timmy, adopted her nephew and now the couple has two sons who are only five months apart.

“Being a young breast cancer patient, you do have a few different issues than you do from your average older patient. I still had to take care of a 3-year-old son running around the house and I had to have energy for it,” she said.

“Also I was 24 and lost my breasts. At any age that’s a huge deal, but when you are 24 years old, it is a huge blow.”

Nonetheless, Hynum said, she is proud today to say she has been cancer free since June 2006.

And for those women who may be hearing the words, you have breast cancer, Hynum said to remember, “If caught early, breast cancer can be cured. It doesn’t have to be your future, it is just a bump in the road, and you will be able to cross over that and you will be ok.”

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” she added, “You just have to take one day at a time.”


About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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