For 28 years, work was Melody Blanchard’s life, and she liked it that way. But now she can look back on those years and her last day of full-time work— a day that came without warning or invitation— and feel grateful because now she has her priorities in place.
In 2012, Blanchard was an area manager for a staffing agency and was working on a grand opening of a new, bigger location in Shelbyville. She travelled often and worked long hours, but she’d made time to have her annual mammogram the day before. When she received a call from Sarah Bush Lincoln asking her to come back because there was a concern with her mammogram, she recalled, “I told the gal that I didn’t have time that day, but one of the store employees said, ‘They don’t usually call unless they are concerned about it.’” She arranged to return that day. And that day became her last day of work.
When she arrived at Sarah Bush Lincoln, the radiologist told Blanchard that he had found spots on her mammogram that were cancerous. “The only way they found it was through a mammogram. I would have never felt them,” she added. Following a needle biopsy, markers were placed in her breast so as much of the cancer as possible could be surgically removed.
“My first appointment at the Regional Cancer Center was very intimating. It was at that point that it finally sunk in that I had cancer. I couldn’t believe all the other people I saw in treatment,” she recalls.
Blanchard was diagnosed with DCIS breast cancer with HER2 and progesterone and estrogen positive. Medical Oncologist Abdur Shakir, MD, explained that it was distributed in her breast like scattered sand. The aggressive cancer was feeding other cells that could quickly travel to other parts of her body. She underwent a mastectomy in which 17 lymph nodes were removed.
Her invasive and aggressive breast cancer threw her for a loop. “There is so much information to take it, but the (SBL) Regional Cancer Center staff made me feel so comfortable. Dr. Shakir would draw diagrams on my papers so I could better understand it. He invited my family to come to the cancer center so he could help answer their questions too,” she said.
Blanchard was firm in her resolve to beat the cancer. “I knew I could fight this since it wasn’t in other organs,” she said. She started the first of 18 chemotherapy treatments on her 48th birthday. “The staff members made me feel so welcome and they made it a fun place to be,” she recalls.
Her husband, Quincy, and their adult children, Seth and Tonya, and her family supported her throughout her treatment and recovery.
Dr. Shakir told her that despite going through a year of chemo treatments, she would never be considered in remission because of the type of cancer she had. Instead, they agreed to keep a close eye on her health. However, in April 2018, five years after her diagnosis, Dr. Shakir told her she was officially in remission. “I just bawled like a baby. I jumped up from my chair and hugged him so tightly. It was the best news ever!” Blanchard said with a wide smile.
Today she is thankful that she had the opportunity to re-examine her priorities and make God and her faith her first priority. “He gave me the chance to live. There were days when I would lie in bed and read devotionals and say, ‘Lord just help me get out of bed today.’ When I thought I couldn’t go on another minute, someone would stop by and encourage me to fight; that, and people praying for me, really made a difference. People may not think that makes a difference, but it does.” she said.
The Westfield native is now working part-time sorting and delivering mail for the Westfield Post Office, and she loves her new life. “It is easy to get wrapped up in your work and in your job. I just wasn’t living as much as I should have been. There were so many miracles that got me to this place. My whole life has changed,” she said.
Blanchard treasures her church, her family and her five grandchildren. “When I was really ill and in the hospital, I said, ‘Lord, I’m ready to go, but if it’s not my time, I will get up the stairs to church, and I will thank you and praise your name.’ I feel He used me in so many ways to help people with cancer,” she said.
For more information about the Sarah Bush Lincoln Regional Cancer Center, call 217 258-2250 or go to www.sarahbush.org.