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Breast cancer survivor reflects on fight against disease

Screenings key to early detection

Stacy Morgan, center, a teacher at L.B. Williams Elementary in Mitchell, is marking 11 years as a breast cancer survivor this year. She is pictured, from left to right, with husband Scott, son Connor, daughter Payton and son Cole. (Submitted Photo)

Over a decade ago, Stacy Morgan was diagnosed with breast cancer. She faced it head on, and underwent a mastectomy and reconstruction before returning to her teaching position at L.B. Williams Elementary School in Mitchell.

Today, she is an 11-year cancer survivor. And as such, she continues to encourage those who receive a similar diagnosis to remain vigilant about their health, to learn their family history and lean on others for support when the going gets rough.

Morgan spoke recently with The Daily Republic about her experience battling cancer and the tools it takes to overcome the deadly disease as part of a special section marking Breast Cancer Awareness Month, which is observed annually in October.

“Things are good,” Morgan said of her health today, though the memory of when things were much more uncertain are still fresh in her memory. She knows how overwhelming receiving a diagnosis can be, and hopes those who are facing what she faced years ago will take the time to properly process the information as it comes at them.

“My biggest advice is always to slow down, take a breath and don’t make any hasty decisions,” Morgan said. “Weigh your options.”

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There will be a flood of information coming at new patients from all angles, she said, and it’s important to parse that information and make sure they are receiving solid advice from doctors.

“Make sure you’re comfortable with your doctor,” Morgan said.

New patients may be tempted to seek out their own information through the internet. While a wealth of useful information can be found online, Morgan stresses that a new patient’s first resource for information on the disease and its treatment should come from trusted medical professionals. They will be best equipped to give advice on a patient’s specific condition and their treatment.

“Seek advice from professionals, and try to stay away from the internet,” Morgan said. “Everyone’s story is different, so you have to trust health care professionals and trust them to make the best decisions.”

The process of treatment can begin with diagnosis, and a diagnosis can come faster if people pay attention to their bodies and undergo regular health checkups and cancer screenings, she said. Morgan said she suspected there was something wrong with her for some time before her diagnosis, but she failed to act on it.

She stresses others should not follow that example.

“I advise every woman to have a mammogram yearly after the age of 40. I tell people to listen to your bodies. I knew for about 10 years that something was wrong with me and I bounced from doctor to doctor,” Morgan said. “Follow through on everything.”

Along with regular screenings, she said doing genetic research for potential mutations that can cause cancer can be beneficial, both for the individual and their family, as well.

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“It allows you to take some safeguards for yourself and you know your own risk,” Morgan said. “And my children are becoming adults. They need to know.”

Morgan underwent the process many cancer patients go through. She fought her way through chemotherapy and endured surgery and the healing process that comes with it. But in the end, she said she didn’t do it by herself. A supportive backbone of family and friends can make the battle that much easier, and it’s something anyone can do.

“I had so much help,” Morgan said.

Of course, her family was there for support. Friends helped transport and care for her kids when it was needed. Her fellow faculty members at L.B. Williams made meals for her.

“The last thing you feel like doing on chemo is cooking,” Morgan said.

Just letting someone going through those struggles know that they’re not alone can make a huge difference. Sometimes, there doesn’t even need to be conversation.

“Being there and listening and lending that if you want it. My friends would come and just sit with me,” Morgan said.

A battle against breast cancer -- or any kind of cancer -- can be won, she said. Start with vigilance and body awareness to speed diagnosis, listen to your doctors when you seek treatment and lean on your support system when the fight seems to go forever. Every step can make a difference.

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And while she said her health is good, she continues the fight to this day, 11 years on.

“I have check ups every six months, and I’ll have those for the rest of my life,” Morgan said. “I’m just thankful for every little thing.”

Related Topics: HEALTH
Erik Kaufman joined the Mitchell Republic in July of 2019 as an education and features reporter. He grew up in Freeman, S.D., graduating from Freeman High School. He graduated from the University of South Dakota in 1999 with a major in English and a minor in computer science. He can be reached at ekaufman@mitchellrepublic.com.
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