Local Couple Shares Cancer Story – Brevard, NC

 

Last updated 10/14/2020 at 4:07pm

Laura Long

"Anybody who knows me knows that every day in October I wear pink. I support my cause," said Brevard native Laura Long.

Long is a breast cancer survivor who recently found out she was cancer free after battling the disease for four years.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness month, and Long said she sports pink year round but especially this month.

She even has a pink face mask this year.

According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, and in 2020 it's estimated that 276,480 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women in the U.S., as well as 48,530 new cases of non-invasive (in situ) breast cancer.

Though Long said she will be taking medications for the rest of her life and she undergoes twice yearly checkups for cancer screenings, now that she's cancer free she is healthy and happy.

As a survivor, both Long and her husband, Dan, say they believe it's important to raise awareness about detecting the early signs of the disease.

"I think everybody, and I believe this wholeheartedly, every woman from the time they turn 21 should be getting mammograms and getting checked," said Dan. "I also believe that it ought to be talked about. There are a lot of signs that a lot of women don't know, that you'll completely miss if you're not paying attention."


He and Long have three daughters, and Dan said he makes sure to talk with his daughters about the importance of knowing the warning signs.

"Always check yourself," she said. "Had mine been caught earlier, it probably wouldn't have been nearly as bad as it was, so early detection is definitely the way to go."

Long said she first noticed the lump in her breast four years ago while she was on a vacation with Dan.

Until then, she said she had felt fine.

When she went to get it checked on, she found out she had stage 3A invasive ductal carcinoma.

At only 40, Long then began the grueling cancer treatments.

Stage 3A meant the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.

Long opted to get a bilateral mastectomy, undergoing surgery to remove the breast tissue from both of her breasts.

"I was young, and I didn't want to take chances of it returning," she said.

In 2017, Long started what she said was the most aggressive form of chemotherapy for five months.

She underwent several hospitalizations and has had 18 surgeries after her mastectomy, which were caused by an infection from tissue expanders her doctors put in her breasts to aid in the possibility of future breast reconstruction.

On top of dealing with the grueling effects of chemotherapy, Long said she was still going to work. She also still had her two youngest daughters in the house.

"Chemotherapy is hard and draining, and you're sick pretty much all the time as far as nausea," she said. "I didn't throw up a lot, but I was always nauseous...You just are drained and tired. I still worked while I was doing chemotherapy, so I would have my therapy on a Wednesday, and I was able to work the next day, Thursday. But then Friday, Saturday and most of Sunday, I was just completely dead tired. Exhausted. Out of it. Nauseated. It takes a lot out of you."


Through her experience, Long said her relationships with the people closest to her have grown stronger, especially with Dan.

Her father took her to all of the chemo appointments, and her mother was also always there for her. Her youngest daughter was only in seventh grade at the time, and going through the illness brought the whole family closer.

Additionally, Long and Dan said they received tremendous support from their loved ones and friends.

"We made sure that there was always time for everybody who was there, because a lot of people don't know how to deal with something like this, which is completely understandable," he said. "But we made cookouts for friends who were being there for us. We made our friendship and our families a lot tighter by saying, 'You know, we understand you don't understand what we're going through and you guys have got stuff to do.' But they're very, very good friends. To this day we still go have dinner with them. We'll go to the lake as a family and hang out. Stuff like that has become more of a priority," Dan said.


With her support system, Long said she was able to keep a positive mindset because, as she saw it, there was no alternative.

"Everybody told me I have a great attitude and everything, and you just have to," she said. "You don't really have an option. It's either – if you have a good attitude, and you do what you have to do, or you're not going to be here. So, you just have to do it. Be strong and do what's there for you to do."

Now that they are, hopefully, on the other side of the illness, Dan said going through the life-changing illness with his wife has readjusted his priorities. Family time has become the most important thing, according to Dan.

Work is important, but work is not life, he said.

Seeing other women fight the disease has also put life into perspective for Dan.

"No one's guaranteed the next day," he said. "No one's guaranteed tomorrow. No one. And you learn that fast when it comes to this. When you're sitting in the cancer center and all of these women are super sick and you see what they're going through, you learn real fast that nothing is guaranteed.

"And I don't care how strong somebody believes they are. Until they actually are in that center and they're actually with those women who are suffering – there's nothing that will humble you faster in that moment than watching a lady who's struggling. She's struggling to take the chemotherapy, she's throwing up, but, yet, she's telling the nurse she's not leaving. She's going to stay...The smiles on people's faces. That's the stuff I guess we all take for granted. Just enjoying that moment because that moment can be gone anytime."

Long underwent treatment in both Asheville and in Brevard.

For more information about breast cancer warning signs, visit http://www.national breastcancer.org/early-detection-of-breast-cancer/.

 
 

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