Aiming for 40 more years

Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is part three of a four part series which will showcase different areas of a cancer diagnosis from early detection, to support systems, to those who receive a diagnosis and how such a diagnosis affects not only the person receiving it.

Staff Writer
A cancer diagnosis can be hard to swallow for anyone. Millions of questions can enter their mind. How aggressive is it? Where will they go for treatment? What will treatment be like? What’s going to happen to them? What’s going to happen to their family?
While new science has found some genetic links for a few types cancers, when someone gets the diagnosis without the having the link, the news can be even harder to hear.
For one St. Marys West Intermediate paraprofessional, there was no genetic link and no family history. For her, the diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow, but as a mother of two young girls, a wife, a daughter and friend she knew her only option was to face it head on.
“I was very proactive, I wanted a double mastectomy,” Mindy Pond, 42, said. “I had already worked with a co-worker who had done the lumpectomy and it came back in the opposite breast. I was like ‘I have 40 more years to live yet.’”
According to Pond, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in January, she found the lump on her own. She said one day she was getting changed when she felt some pain and found the mass. As anyone would, she scheduled a doctors appointment that led to several more doctors appointments and a biopsy before her worst fear was confirmed. Lucky for her, it was caught early and her’s was not one that has a genetic link for her daughters to worry about, although she’s still going to encourage them to be proactive.
The support she’s received, from the moment she found out to now, is something she said was overwhelming. Her husband is one of many people she credits for helping her during this process.
“I made the decision to have a double mastectomy without even asking. I remember looking over and was like, ‘are you OK?’ and he was like, ‘oh my gosh do whatever you’re going to do,’” she said. “He’s been super awesome, he’s been the greatest nurse. He definitely stepped up to the plate.”
She also has a friend who is a nurse who has helped translate the medical lingo for her when she starts to feel overwhelmed. She said her friend has been to several appointments with her.
“I had a lady who even after my diagnosis, the girl who did my ultrasound, came in and found me, to see how I was doing because she saw it but wasn’t allowed to tell me,” Pond recalled. “[Lima Memorial] did really well [with comforting me] and they did really well at explaining it to me.”
They presented her with their recommended plan for treatment, but it differed from what she had in mind. What they wanted required more surgery’s than she had in mind.
It was at that moment that she decided she should get a second opinion and she reached out the president of Tailgate for Cancer, Traci Lauth. She said within a week she had an appointment with doctors at The James in Columbus.
Working with the doctors at The James, Pond was able to schedule her double mastectomy and start the treatment she wanted. Around surgery time however, she received more potentially bad news.
“I did have it go into a lymph node, so that was the scary part, waiting to make sure that [it hadn’t spread],” Pond said. “He took out 39 more lymph nodes to make sure, and the rest of them were negative so it just went out once.”
On top of having surgery, Pond is also taking daily chemo pills. This was another decision where she had some disagreeance with her doctors.
They conducted an Oncotype DX score to determine whether she should receive her chemo treatment through IV or with a daily pill. The score determines the patients percentage of the cancer recurring in the next five years with IV or pill chemo treatment.
For Pond, her percentage was the same with both treatments, and her doctor suggesting she do the more aggressive approach with the IV chemo treatment, because she was young.
“To me that wasn’t enough of a reason because my percentage was the same that I could have a lot more side effects from the IV chemo, and I would still have to take the pill and the IV, so I opted for just the pill and I get monthly injections, for five to 10 years,” she said. “The chemo pill is for five to ten years, the injections would follow as well but I decided to have a hysterectomy in November because my cancer is 99 percent estrogen fed, so I need all of the estrogen out of my body.”
She is certainly feeling the effects of the treatment, she mentioned. Compared to those she knows who are receiving IV treatment, she said she thinks she’s doing a bit better, but her side effects are still something she deals with on a daily basis.
“I hurt everywhere,” she explained. “I went straight to menopause so my hot flashes are out of control … I take a lot of medications to offset the side effects of that as well.
“But I have young kids so I try to keep a smile on my face. I went back to work and try to do as much as I can. I think normality is the most important thing.”
Despite the side effects, Pond said she tries to remain as positive as she can, not only for her family but for herself. She said that even though some days are terrible, there is nothing she can do about it and just tries to do the best she can with the time she has.
In the beginning, she said she was going to The James for treatment three times a week. Now she has it down to once every three weeks. While there she visits her brother and her nephew who live in Columbus, something that she says helps keep her sane.
As she looks toward the future, she certainly plans to make the best of her situation. One way she plans to do that is by giving back to the organizations that helped her when she needed it.
“[Tailgate for Cancer] really are the real deal in regards to helping our community,” she said. “A lot of people have the misconception, and I’ve heard a lot of negatives, I believe that I owe that I got the treatment that I did because of the Tailgate. I really truly believe they help our community.
“I feel like I need to give back as much as I can. I’m actually going to help the bowling [fundraiser].”
It may be uncertain what the future holds for Ponds, and whether her cancer comes back is something she may always worry about. For now she’s just trying to maintain a positive attitude.
“I don’t have any choice and I want at least another 40 more years,” she stated. “That’s why I keep saying I don’t want to hear, ‘oh she lived five more years or she did this.’ I want 40 so [I’m] just trying to stay positive.”