ROCKSPRINGS — For the last few years, a “Breast Cancer Warrior” has been honored at the Meigs High School Volley for the Cure game. The honoree this year was Andrea Clegg.
The warrior was recently announced between the junior varsity and varsity games and was sponsored by Pam Patterson of Pizza Dan’s.
Patterson said they started naming breast cancer warriors because her husband’s aunt had breast cancer.
“You’re going to be hard pressed to find someone who’s not affected,” Patterson said.
Clegg was diagnosed in January of this year with stage three, grade three triple negative breast cancer. Clegg said she felt a lump one morning and decided it was best to get it checked.
“I just remember I was reaching for something and thought ‘Man, what is that? It hurts really bad.’ And I felt it,” Clegg said. “I was always told that breast cancer doesn’t hurt. It was really painful so I thought it was something else.”
She urges everyone to do self breast checks and to speak up if they suspect something.
The American Cancer Society recommends women get a mammogram screening starting at age 40. In Clegg’s case, she was 32 when she found her cancer.
According to the Susan G. Komen organization, triple negative breast cancer is often diagnosed in younger women. It’s also a very aggressive form that grows quickly and is non-hormonal, which means chemotherapy is required.
“There’s no hormone blockers or different things. Once you get the triple negative, you know you’re going to get chemo no matter what,” Clegg said. “I had to get chemo before surgery because they wanted to see if the tumor responds to it. Luckily, mine did really good. I could tell it was getting smaller.”
After being diagnosed nine months ago, Clegg has completed 20 weeks of chemotherapy and a double mastectomy. Clegg will be starting radiation treatment in the next few weeks.
Several people in the community have been there to support Clegg, her husband, and their two children who are four and seven. People brought them meals, helped out with various things and organized fund raisers to help with expenses.
“I knew that I knew a lot of people, but I never realized how many people cared about it,” Clegg said. “Just the support from friends and church and people that I don’t know that well.”
Clegg said that speaks for the Meigs County community and the great area we live in. People are always willing to help.
Clegg hopes she can use her experience to do some good.
“I believe that there is a reason for everything, even if it is just to see how strong I am or that I can help someone else,” Clegg said. “It took awhile to find peace with all of this and for the most part, after a lot of prayers, I have found peace with it and I know there is a reason God picked me to have to go through this.”
She also wants to provide support for those who have recently been diagnosed with cancer.
“When you are first told, you feel like it’s never going to end and it’s over,” Clegg said. “I just try to think of it like everyone has something — whether they’ve had a heart attack and they constantly worry about that. It’s just a very small blip in a long life.”
The month of October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It’s important to schedule yearly checkups and exams. The American Cancer Society recommends starting mammograms at the age of 40, but as Clegg said, doing self-breast exams is a way to watch for changes or lumps. It is also recommended that women with a family history of breast cancer start screenings earlier.
The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2019, 268,600 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in women — with a one in eight chance a women will develop the disease. Although it is less common, men can also develop breast cancer. It is estimated that 2,670 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in men in 2019 — meaning a one in 833 chance a man will develop the disease.
Kayla Hawthorne is a freelance writer for Ohio Valley Publishing.