Girard’s Marilyn Sees says support of family, friends pulled her through cancer fight

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Breast cancer survivor Marilyn Sees of Girard was diagnosed in 2009. Five years after a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, she was declared in full remission. That doesn’t erase the concern about cancer coming back but she’s determined to enjoy her retirement to the fullest, she said.

Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple Breast cancer survivor Marilyn Sees of Girard was diagnosed in 2009. Five years after a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, she was declared in full remission. That doesn’t erase the concern about cancer coming back but she’s determined to enjoy her retirement to the fullest, she said.

GIRARD — In 2009, Girard resident Marilyn Sees received the news women dread. At age 54, she’d been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer following a routine mammogram.

Sees said after a small cyst had been detected and a biopsy was performed, “They called me at work and asked me to come in and then they sat me down and said, ‘It’s not good news.’

“They told me it was malignant, that I had breast cancer,” she said.

“I just cried. I went out to my car and called my son and then went straight to my mom’s house. And I let my sister know that I had cancer and it could be in the family.”

Dr. Chris A. Knight, a physician at The Hope Center for Cancer Care’s Boardman location, spoke with Sees about the necessary treatment, which would include chemotherapy and radiation.

“As soon as he said I was going to lose my hair, I just lost it and didn’t hear anything else,” Sees said.

After undergoing a lumpectomy in February 2009 at Southwoods in Boardman, Sees began the first of six cycles of chemotherapy at The Hope Center for Cancer Care’s Howland location.

“Losing my hair was emotional, but I only got sick one time,” she said. “It was on the way to my brother’s funeral.”

In addition to the chemotherapy, Sees started to take Herceptin, a trastuzumab drug therapy for when breast cancer tests positive for HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2).

Sees, who retired in December 2016 from her job as a teller at Farmers National Bank, said she continued to work throughout her treatment.

“When I went to buy a wig, my mom came with me. I was a blonde and my mom bought me a blonde wig. I bought a red one. I always wanted to be a redhead. So, one day I was a redhead and the next I was blonde, and the customers at work were probably like, ‘What the heck?'” Sees said.

In 2010, Sees completed her radiation and Herceptin regimen and it was music to her ears — literally. “At The Hope Center, when you finish your treatment, the nurses sing to you.”

Sees was still required to follow up with her doctor regularly for the next five years — which is standard after being treated for breast cancer — before being declared officially cancer-free.

Sees said her mom, who passed away in 2014, was her greatest support. The two walked together in Warren’s Relay for Life fundraiser for the American Cancer Society when Sees was in treatment for the breast cancer.

Sees, who became a widow in 2004, also said relatives — siblings, a son, four stepchildren, nine grandchildren and three great-grandchildren — were a source of strength in her recovery.

“I prayed a lot, talked with friends and held on to my family,” she said.

Now 62, Sees said she’s enjoying her retirement and likes to travel. But knowing she is cancer-free doesn’t erase the worry, she said.

“Once you have cancer, everything that goes wrong in your body makes you think it’s back,” Sees said.

She describes a recent scare when she found a lump on the back of her neck. “I went to see Dr. Hemrock (at The Hope Center for Cancer Care) and she did a full exam. I cried when I found out there was nothing wrong. And she was so kind and said, ‘Don’t you wait and worry if something like this happens again. You come back anytime.'”

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