To say that Judy Crowley is a busy person is a bit of an understatement. She juggles her duties directing the Coffee County Family Service Center in Enterprise, which serves low income, disabled and minority women, with her responsibilities as the mother of two teenage girls. But, unlike a lot of us, Judy doesn’t let being busy stand as an excuse to neglect her own health. It’s an attitude that may well have saved her life.
Recently, a few months after a routine annual mammogram produced normal results, Judy was conducting a breast self-examination when she discovered a suspicious ridge on one breast. Using her Beads of Hope necklace, which is adorned with beads of varying sizes representing possible sizes of lumps, Judy determined that the ridge measured 25 millimeters. She had shared many of the same necklaces with women at her center, and was now able to use her own to give her physician as much information as possible before he conducted his own examination.
“Education was key here,” Judy said. “The lump felt more like a ridge, a muscle - anything but a lump. It was very close to the skin, and I used three pressures to three different depths, but it still didn’t feel like a lump.”
Examination showed that the lump was cancer, and an extremely aggressive form of cancer at that, but one that was treatable through surgery and an equally aggressive chemotherapy program. Judy was treated by Dr. Sam Sawyer of Enterprise, himself a board member of the Coffee County Family Service Center, and then by Dr. Stokes at the University of South Alabama. She underwent her chemotherapy treatments at Flowers Hospital in Dothan.
Judy said her oldest daughter, who was 14 at the time of Judy’s diagnosis, had a particularly hard time dealing with the hair loss and sickness her mother suffered due to the chemotherapy. Judy said she worked hard to put up a front to help her family cope with the difficult time she was having, keeping to a regular routine of work, church, cooking, and other activities as much as possible. After her treatment was over, her hair grew back – and is, for the first time in her life, curly all over.
Looking back, Judy said her own fight with breast cancer has strengthened her resolve and determination to educate other women about the disease.
“We hear all the time, ‘If I have cancer, I don’t want to know about it,’” Judy said. “Six months out of my life probably has given me a normal lifespan. I can’t say enough about how women should do themselves a favor by following the American Cancer Society early detection screening guidelines.
“This experience lets me know that teaching about breast self-examination is absolutely the right thing to do.”
Do you know someone who would like to share their survivor story? Email Bret Stanfield or call 334.206.5537.
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