The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

October 27, 2013

‘There is life after cancer’

Survivor hopes to allay others’ fears, misconceptions, excuses

By Melissa Klaric
Herald Staff Writer

GREENVILLE — Carole Lysle was still mourning the loss of her husband when she went right into her breast cancer saga.

The retired registered nurse from Greenville, now 72, was diagnosed in her early 60s.

She didn’t have to go through it alone, though.

Carole said she had just met her companion shortly before she was diagnosed, and by the grace of God, he stood by her and took care of her.

“We are both retirees,” Carole said. “He looks out for me and I look after him.”

Her cancer was found through a routine mammogram. It was caught in the very early stages – a mere brush stroke on the scan, as she describes its appearance.

Carole had gone for about a year without a physician, so she skipped a mammogram. When it came time to have it the following year, she tried to get out of it.

“It was late in the day and very bad weather,” Carole said, “I decided I’d come back another day, but they talked me into doing it anyway.”

The next day her good friend and co-worker, who pushed her to go to Dr. Michelle Thompson and to get the mammogram in the first place, reminded her to call the doctor.

“I told her, ‘I’ll get to it later, I’m too busy,’” Lysle said.

Her co-worker kept pushing until she relented. She was called to the doctor’s office that day.

“I walked in and she said, ‘Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is you don’t have anything in your bones. The bad news is you have cancer.’ I about hit the floor,” Lysle said.

Dr. Thompson told her that they would beat it.

“She said, ‘you’re not going to die from this,’”

So, Carole said, “I decided, I’m going to lick cancer.”

They found the cancer was in Stage One. It was just one centimeter – less than half the size of a razor head, she said.

Carole said her cancer could not be felt because it was so far back in her muscle, which, she said, is not unusual.

She underwent a lumpectomy and came home the same day. She went on to receive 36 radiation treatments and had pills prescribed in place of chemotherapy.

“I’ve never felt weak or run down or bad and was able to work,” Carole said. “Praise the Lord on that one.”

Carole then continued with all her follow-up doctor visits and mammograms. She followed every instruction her doctor gave her, which she said is very important.

She’s hit the five-year mark of being cancer free but said she is still cautious.

“I watch my diet, use antioxidants,” Carole said. “I pay attention.”

Carole said she’s heard a lot of excuses from women who refuse to get mammograms, and who are frightened by the thought of being treated for breast cancer.

By telling her story, she hopes to allay some of those fears, and to blow common misconceptions out of the water.

“If I can just save one person who reads this, it will be worth telling my story,” Carole said.

Some women say they have no time or money for a mammogram.

“You want to be there for your family, so don’t risk it,” Carole said. “Lots of organizations do it for free.”

Some women complain of the pain.

She said neither mammograms nor treatment are painful in comparison to having a fractured back.

“Mammograms are not painful. It’s like squeezing your finger a little bit,” Carole said. “I know the difference from injections I’ve had to have in my back when I fractured it. Now, that is pain.”

More misconceptions and lack of knowledge impair decisions.

Carole marveled at how far we have come in our mindset and with technological advancements in treating  breast cancer.

“We’ve come long strides,” she said. “There’s a big difference between now and then.”

We now have digital mammography that allowed Carole’s doctor to find her cancer in the early stages.

She said in the 1980s if there was a dark spot on the scan, women might wait over a month to get the results. Now we don’t have to wait.

The cancer centers have come a long way, Carole said. Machines are not as scary or nasty looking as they were way back when. The staff makes you feel at ease.

“Everything has been so well thought-out to put women more at ease,” Carole said. “Even the clothing has been made more comfortable.”

She said the centers no longer have the stark, scary and cold rooms and machines of the past.

Lysle hopes to help women overcome their fears, and bask in the support of loved ones.

She credits her support team, without whom her journey would not have been as easy.

Carole is thankful she had the support of her church, as well as her co-workers at White-Cliff Nursing Home, Hempfield Township, where she was director of nursing.

“If you know of anybody who is undergoing cancer treatments, go through it with them,” Carole said. “It’s so vital. Support helps you.”

She said with the support of family anyone can really make it.

She said she’ll never be able to pay back all the support from her son, Michael, and her partner, James and his family.

“They have brought Carole through this,” she said.