RGH Celebrates Breast Cancer Survivors

November 1, 2018

Already a survivor of melanoma and uterine cancer, an Oak Hill woman recently added breast cancer to her list of cancers survived.

Draped in a pink sash with the word "survivor" written in sparkling script, Rebecca "Becky" Stonestreet, 70, was all smiles Friday at Raleigh General Hospital's third annual breast cancer survivor party. 

"It's my first year coming," Stonestreet shared. "I was diagnosed in the middle of January." 

She spoke of her bout with breast cancer with a sort of nonchalance, after having dealt with melanoma 14 years ago, and uterine cancer 10 years ago.

She remembers being with her husband John at a Summersville doctor's office when she was leafing through a brochure. 

"I said, 'That looks like a place on my arm.'" 

After the doctor had finished with John, he took a look at Becky and said, "It has to come off." 

The doctor removed the cancerous patch of skin and some skin surrounding it, so she did not have to have chemo or radiation. 

Four years later, she experienced some spotting and she mentioned it to her daughter, Debbie Crowder, who is a midwife at Raleigh General. 

"She said, 'Mom, we need to get it checked.'"

Her daughter's advice was sound — she was diagnosed with uterine cancer and underwent a complete hysterectomy. 

"She's my rock," Stonestreet said of Crowder. "She's always been here for me. Anything I've had a question about, I've always gone to her. She's so knowledgeable. She's always led me in the right path." 

Crowder was by her side throughout her bout with breast cancer, which was discovered during a routine mammogram. 

Her doctor discovered a small shaded area, which prompted a biopsy.

"It came back cancerous," she said. "Within a week, I was scheduled for surgery." 

She was given the choice between a mastectomy or a lumpectomy — she chose the mastectomy for fear of the cancer returning. 

"There's always that chance it will come back. I didn't want to have to deal with another surgery at my age."

With a rapidly scheduled surgery and confidence in her doctors, Stonestreet said her surgery went well, as did her recovery. 

"I feel blessed," she said of surviving cancer not once, not twice, but three times. "I guess my work here on Earth isn’t finished yet."

Stonestreet, who raised four children — Pamela, Debbie, John and Scott, now dotes on 15 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren. 

She also enjoys staying active with sewing and quilting, and attending a sewing group in Hico. 

Stonestreet encouraged others to always attend annual exams and screenings. She credits early detection as one reason for her survival. 

"Make sure you keep up with appointments," she said. "It could save your life." 

She also encouraged others struggling currently with breast cancer to not let their diagnosis get them down. 

"You have to stay busy. You can't let things get you down. You have to have a positive look on life.

"Don't give up." 

• • • 

Stonestreet attended the Raleigh General breast cancer survivor party with her daughter, but looked forward to meeting other survivors, too. 

Katana Jackson, director of women's services, said the event was initially created to celebrate employees at the hospital who had survived breast cancer.

"We needed a celebration to let them know we appreciate them, and we're happy they made it through," Jackson said. 

The event is also open to the community, she said. Survivors are encouraged to share their stories with one another, and enjoy a meal together.  

Jackson said it's also a great way for those still struggling with breast cancer to connect with survivors.  

"When you have someone in the first stages, to know someone has made it for 17 years, that gives you the hope you need to get through it." 

By Wendy Holdren, The Register Herald