Meet Cora Green – The Survivor
Cora is family. She is my cousin on Dad’s side, the middle child with two sisters (later expanded to five sisters and two brothers), and I have so many fun memories of her when they would come visit. We would have sleepovers on your grandmother, Mimi’s, pullout couch and eat junk food while watching silly movies and act silly like girls tend to do. After Mimi passed away from cancer they didn’t get to make the trip as much, but thankfully social media kept us connected. At 20 years old she married the love of her life, Michael, and they started a family living the Army life. In July 2018, they moved to Georgia and soon after Cora noticed something wasn’t quite right. In January 2019, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and her world was turned upside down. She had no family history and was young – 36 years old with a six and four year old. She fought hard, defied all odds and is now PRAISE GOD is healthy once more, smiling the same smile she’s smiled since we were girls playing dress-up. I’m so proud of Cora for how she has handled so much with so much grace, all while being a wife, mom, sister and friend. I loved hearing her story and I know you’ll be inspired by it, too.
Tell me a little bit about your journey. When were you diagnosed with breast cancer, and how did you find out?
We moved to Fort Benning, Georgia in July 2018 and I started training for the Fort Benning Soldiers half-marathon with an old friend. I had recently gone from weighing 212 to 166 pounds and was in the best shape of my life. In October I noticed after getting out of the shower I had a subtle dimple in my breast. I remover thinking it was odd but chalked it up to losing weight and my body changing. After all, breast cancer didn’t run in my family. So I went on and rain the half in August and finished the year celebrating Christmas with my family.
January rolls around and Michael noticed in passing while I was getting dressed that I had a dimple and said “ Cora what is that it’s not normal?” So right then I knew I had to make an appointment. I got in a week later with my doctor and she put in the referral for a mammogram. That came back flawless but since I had the dimple so they wanted an ultrasound too. As the tech took the images I instantly knew something wasn’t ok. I have had two babies and ultrasounds weren’t new for me. I laid there nervous and my gut instinct told me this wasn’t going to be good.
As I waited the doctor that read the images and the ultra sound tech came back. She looked at me and said I need biopsies and breast MRI with imaging ASAP. She said I’ve been doing this for thirty years and I am going to move heaven and earth for you. I instantly began to cry. She hugged me and held me tight while I cried. I asked her to write it all down for Michael so I could tell him exactly what she was saying. She then asked if he was there and said I wasn’t telling him alone that would be her job. She took me to her personal office and asked them to bring Mike in. I sat with my mind racing. My only thought was my babies and my husband. I sat looking at a brochure and as he walked in he looked at me and asked if I was ok. All I could do was show him the brochure. As we sat she explained to Michael that she had just gotten off the phone with the surgeons. We are military so we were at the base hospital. It was a Tuesday or Wednesday and that weekend was what they call a four day meaning they would have Friday through Monday off except for emergency room staff. So she called and asked if someone could come in that Friday to do a breast MRI and rescheduled another patient so she could get me in the following Tuesday for the biopsies. My whole world had just been turned upside down in less then an hour.
When those images came back they said everything was localized to my right breast and nothing was in the lymph nodes. Praise God. The biopsies came back a few weeks later and the surgeon called me in to go over the results. Invasive Ductal Carcinoma , ER/PR positive (hormone positive), HER2 negative. The next step was to see the oncologist at John B Amos Cancer Center because the tumor measured 6 to 7 cm.
I got in with the Oncologist in March he said the cancer I had was one of the most common and easiest to treat.
First thoughts when you were diagnosed?
All I can remember is thinking “ok this is our reality.” This is my story. We had been through more deployments then I can keep track of, IVF to have our daughter, and now a cancer diagnosis. For a long time I couldn’t say cancer. I would practice in the mirror.
Over and over I would repeat “ I have cancer, God is good.”
Although I knew the next year was going to be hard, I knew God was by my side and more often then not I had to lean on Him and truly give all my emotions to Him. I looked up and said to Mimi, “Okay well here we go.”
What did your treatments look like?
He said I need a PET scan and port placemat. Before I could start chemo, I would be doing 4 rounds of DDAC ( known as Red Devil one of the harshest chemos) and 12 of Taxol. I was so nervous. While I was doing the DDAC I couldn’t sleep in the same bed as the kids or wash my clothes with there’s. It was tough. I started chemo April 4 and thankfully my mom came and stayed for a couple weeks. We out a twin air mattress in my room and Piper slept on it – she wanted to be close to her mama.
So chemo DDAC was given with a syringe. The nurse would have to push it and then hook me up to the other part of the chemo regimen. This took three hours start to finish. When I got home I would go straight to bed. The first dose I bounced back pretty quick after the first week. I went every other week for this chemo. The second one knocked me down harder. Then I started losing my hair. Easter morning mike and the kids shaved my head. It was making me nauseous to see it come out. Even with my meds I was still getting nauseous but not sick. They messed with them until finding the right stuff. I would go for chemo on a Thursday and then have to go for fluids for two days after. I couldn’t stay hydrated enough. I was drinking 128 oz of water a day and still my body needed more fluids. It was so wild. At one point I was so weak I blacked out on the way to get fluids. I could t walk. Food didn’t taste good and I had no appetite but I knew I had to eat I had to make myself do whatever necessary to make it through.
Ya ok was like night and day from DDAC. It took 2 1/2 hours and man I had the best naps at infusion. They always have Benadryl with my premeds. They do it through your port so as soon as it hits your veins it’s like your drunk and you pass out. I would have to tell them to slowly push it so it wouldn’t hit me so hard. Then I’d nap until I was done. Once I got home I would take another nap. Then go about my day as if I hadn’t been to chemo. I did this once a week for 12 weeks. My 16th round of chemo was in my 16th wedding anniversary. How crazy.
After my treatments it was time for surgery. Sep 30th I had a double mastectomy. I had decided that I would not be doing reconstruction. It was more surgery and honestly Piper was over this. She had cried every time I had to go to chemo because she wanted to go. She wanted to sleep with me.
Surgery went well. They got everything. I had two drainage bulbs in each side which weren’t fun. I had to keep my chest bandaged for a few weeks. But I couldn’t let that stop me. I went to dinner and rode in the truck with the kids. I had to push through and make them feel like life was some what still normal.
October 29th I had another surgery to make for certain they got everything out.
Then more treatments?
Michael and I decided to see a counselor to know the best way to tell the kids before telling them. A dear friend also sent me a book to read to them – It Will Be Okay by Lysa TerKeurst. It’s about trusting God and him always being there through change. Our kids also attend a private Christian school so we met with the teachers and principle about what our family was going through. Then we told them. I told Michael I don’t want to tip toe around it I want to be open and honest.
We explained what the medicine would do to me and that some days I would be really tired but they would still see friends and do there special activities. We told them cancer isn’t something you can give someone like a cold or anything. We explained that sometimes people can get types of cancers that medicine can’t fix but mommy’s cancer is a little different. We told them I would lose my hair and that a neat thing was it could come back another color or straight or curly. We told them they could shave my head even a Mohawk if they wanted. Ezra who was 4 at the time said “ mommy I don’t want to shave your head I’ll just get you a helmet with one.” He seemed less affected by it I think being so young it was kinda easier for him to be like oh ok your sick and the drs will fix you . Piper who was six at the time asked how I got it. She had the hardest time.
What were some ways people helped you that really helped?
Prayers and the stories from other survivors. Meal trains. Knowing my husband had some relief with others delivering meals. Family and friend coming and helping with the kids. The snail mail. The Treadmill! During taxol I walked at least thirty minutes a day. I had to. In my mind the more I sweated the more the chemo was leaving my body and the less my joints hurt. We have a huge support system here with the kids school, our church and our neighbors. I had people I never met bring meals. My what we call co-Mom Brea would pick the kids up from school or take them for the day. Neighbors offered to watch them or drop me off for treatment since I couldn’t drive.
A strong support system is a huge blessing when you feel like everything is falling apart.
Did you love your doctors and nurses?
I LOVE my oncologist. He has seen me at my darkest times and pulled me out quickly. I am 100 percent attached emotionally to my doctors. They have been up front and honest from the start. My oncologist had me break up with google and Facebook support groups because they sent my anxiety through the roof. He said those groups are not healthy for patients. Cancer is so diverse and different for everyone. Even if you have the same cancers treatment and how you handle it or react can be so different. He said ask me the hard questions let me help you. He always takes his time and talks to me or hugs me.
How did this fight shape your faith?
God knew this battle was coming and he was setting up an army for me before I was aware it was coming – with a solid family, church, and friends.
My faith is stronger then it has ever been.
When I had a rough moment I repeated “ God is good “ in my head until the emotion passed. During treatments I would spend weeks in my bed. I had no desire to do anything but sleep and read my Bible. When I would sleep, I would have the best dreams and I know that was God. When I read my Bible, I never followed a reading plan I just opened it and started reading. While I was reading I would notice how it was exactly what I needed to read – that kept me going.
How did this shape your marriage?
Michael became everything. I would talk to Michael and I always had this feeling I was going to be ok. He did it all . Work, kids, house care for me. He made tried making me anything to get me to eat. He held me when I cried. Encouraged me when I had doubt or was scared. Every step of the way he supported my choices. When I said I wanted a mastectomy without reconstruction he said “thank the Lord, we don’t need them.” He is my rock.
How did this change you as a mama?
I try to take in things more. I try to say yes more then no. To be present. To dive into our faith as a family and lean on God.
How has this fight changed you?
This experience has humbled me in so many ways. Like I said from the beginning I always had a feeling something good would come from this. I was going to be ok. In the beginning my mom was so upset and told me I could scream if I wanted I didn’t have to bottle it up. Honestly I didn’t blame anyone. I knew it was just life and for what ever reason my body went crazy on the inside at some point.
I now feel more like me on the inside then I have in a long time.
What advice would you have for other women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer?
It’s going to be hard at times but you will get to the other side. God is mighty and he is always battling before we are aware. Never compare your cancer to others. Your body will handle things different then others or semi similar. Breast cancer is a huge beast with so many different factors.
I live in today because tomorrow isn’t promised.