Maplesville woman shares how she survived breast cancer

Published 2:14 pm Friday, October 25, 2013

When Lona Talley found out she had breast cancer in 1992, she made a commitment to maintain a positive attitude.

When Lona Talley found out she had breast cancer in 1992, she made a commitment to maintain a positive attitude.

When Lona Talley found out she had breast cancer in 1992, she made a commitment to maintain a positive attitude.

“You never think cancer will hit you,” Talley said. “When you hear that you have cancer you have to make a commitment that you will stay positive as you begin your fight.”

Talley, 59, from Maplesville, visited the Chilton County Health Department in November 1992 for her annual checkup when nurses at the clinic found a knot on Talley’s right breast.

At the time, Talley was 39 and a single mother with five children living at home.

“I had never had a mammogram and really didn’t go to the doctor all that much,” Talley said. “The only times I went to the doctor were to have my children.”

Nurses at the clinic told Talley they were alarmed about the knot in her breast and encouraged her to come back for a mammogram.

With the hectic nature of having five children at home, Talley put off a return visit to the clinic until February 1993 when nurses informed her the knot had grown 8 centimeters since her last visit.

After going to the Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham, Talley found out the 9-centimeter knot in her breast was cancerous.

“When they told me that the knot was cancerous I knew that I was going to have to stay positive about everything and not let it get me down,” Talley said. “My biggest thing was I didn’t want people to feel sorry for me so I really didn’t mention it to a lot of people.”

Talley went through 12 chemotherapy treatments in Birmingham where she traveled from Chilton County twice a month, every other Tuesday.

“I had so many angels helping me out during that time,” Talley said. “Several people in my church at New Convert helped me out with my children, and I always had to have someone drive me to my treatments so some of my family would help me out with that as well.”

Talley also traveled from Selma to Montgomery for seven and a half weeks for radiation treatments.

Talley said looking back, there were multiple “angels” who came into her life to help her along as she was receiving treatments.

“There were people who I would meet and would help me in some way,” Talley said. “I would see them for a short time, and they would be such an encouragement to me and I never saw them again.”

Although Talley said she tried to maintain her commitment to not get discouraged, the moment when her hair fell out as a result of the chemotherapy treatments brought her to tears.

“When that last piece of hair fell out was my lowest point,” Talley said. “I remember breaking down when that happened. It was after my fourth treatment and I had been putting all of the hair that had been falling out in a cup. On the fifth day, I didn’t have any hair left, and when I looked up in the mirror and saw I had no hair left was when I broke down.”

Talley decided to purchase a wig and friends and relatives worked to keep Talley’s energy level up by taking her shopping or keeping her active.

“When you go through the treatments you are so tired and have the tendency to want to just sleep all of the time,” Talley said. “I had friends and relatives who would stop by my house and ask me to go out and drive around with them to keep me active, and I really think that is one of the reasons I was able to maintain my strength.”

Talley had a lumpectomy, a surgical procedure designed to remove breast cancer, and was declared cancer free a year and a half after first being diagnosed.

Talley was then diagnosed with Lymphedema, a condition with fluid retention and tissue swelling caused from Talley’s cancer treatments.

Now, 20 years later, Talley hopes her story will encourage other women who are battling breast cancer to continue their fight.

“I hope one day there will be a cure for cancer,” Talley said. “I thank the Lord every day that I am still alive and able to enjoy spending time with my family.”

In August 2004, Talley married Earl Parhm and now has 16 grandchildren and spends time encouraging other women to get their yearly mammograms.

Although Talley said most women are encouraged to start getting mammograms at age 40, she recommends women having mammograms as early as possible.

“I never did a self breast exam,” Talley said. “I had never had a mammogram and I look back and think if I had gone back in when they first told me about everything I might not have had to go through all of the treatments. You just never think it will happen to you, but I hope others will go and have everything checked out.”

Talley said October is a special month for her as it is a time when people honor those who have fought or are fighting breast cancer.

“The only way I was going to beat cancer was to put a smile on and not let it beat me,” Talley said. “When I see people wearing pink, I think people really care and it is a good reminder that I am truly blessed to be alive.”