Marjie Figura says learning she had breast cancer was not news she wanted to hear. But, she says,“I did better than I would have ever expected. My thought was, 'OK, where do we go from here?'
“Something just takes over and you just get though it.”
The lump in Marjie's breast was found during her annual gynecological visit. “I nearly put it off,” she says. “It was a busy day and I was not even going to go.” But she was scheduled to have her second knee replaced and thought she should get the appointment out of the way before then.
“The doctor found it during my exam,” she says.
Marjie believes it would have taken her months to find it herself. “I had to be lying perfectly. Even after I knew where it was, sometimes I could not find it.”
The mammogram confirmed the presence of two lumps – one, a lymph node, was under her arm.
Since the office was not busy that day, Marjie was able to get an ultrasound right away.
Shortly after, a biopsy confirmed what the Richland Township woman already suspected. “I just had a sense,” she says. “They said it was cancer.
“My husband, George, was out of town, so I was alone at work.”
The couple decided not to spread the word right away. “We didn't tell anybody until we had a plan of attack,” Marjie says. “We wanted to know the facts before we reacted in any way.”
Things moved quickly. “It was a constant whirlwind of stuff,” she says.
The mammogram took place on Aug. 3 and, on Sept. 12, she had her first chemotherapy treatment. “They decided to do chemo first because they wanted to reduce the size of the tumor before surgery in hopes that I would just have to have a lumpectomy.
Marjie says she had very few problems with the chemo, which was administered through a port under her skin. “I still have my port and I am ok with that, because my veins are so bad. Anytime I have an IV, it is a problem, so I am not in any hurry to get it out.
“Some people may have a problem with something foreign in your body, but I've got lots of foreign objects in my body,” she says. “I've had both knees replaced.”
Marjie says she did well with the chemo. “They gave me medicine (to control side effects) and I took it like clockwork.
“I lost all my hair and, towards the end, my hands would break out, but I never had to stay in bed because I was sick. I was able to work.”
In March, Marjie had a lumpectomy. She then had to have 35 radiation treatments.
“It was triple-negative and that's awful,” she says of the breast cancer.
Marjie has to have a mammogram every six months and scans every three to six months. “That's nerve wracking,” she admits.
She says she has become a bit of “a nag for people who don't go for their mammogram.
“I had a fast-growing tumor. If I had waited (to have the mammogram), who knows what would have happened.
“I had no reason in the world to think that there was anything wrong. We have no breast cancer in our family,” she says. “Honestly you can't take anything for granted.”
Marjie is employed by AmeriServ. She and George have been married for 43 years and two sons and two grandchildren.