Breast cancer survivors tell their stories

Published 4:25 pm Friday, October 11, 2013

From left (Reporter Photo/Stephanie Brumfield)

From left, pathologist Kathryn Clary, Montevallo mayor Hollie Cost, state Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, Leadership Shelby County founder Carol Bruser and reigning Mrs. Senior Shelby County Cindy Nicholson. (Reporter Photo/Stephanie Brumfield)


ALABASTER – Hollie Cost got the phone call telling her she had breast cancer the day after she got elected mayor.

State Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, R–Indian Springs, found a lump in her breast just one month after having a clear mammogram.

Cindy Nicholson, the reigning Mrs. Senior Shelby County, never even felt a lump.

Carol Bruser, Leadership Shelby County founder, thought the sharp pains she was feeling in her right breast were being caused by the under wire in her bra. Nobody in her family had breast cancer.

Kathryn Clary, a pathologist who helps diagnose cancer daily, found a mass on one of her breasts shortly after her 39th birthday, the year before women are encouraged to get annual mammograms. She didn’t wait around and saw her doctor the very next week, yet the cancer had already spread to her lymph nodes.

All of these women have very different stories to tell, but they are all breast cancer survivors, and all of them stressed the importance of regular self-examinations and mammograms at a luncheon at Shelby Baptist Medical Center Oct. 11.

“Wearing pink and celebrating pink does no good unless you’re going through the screening process,” said Nicholson, a 22-month breast cancer survivor.

Cost, the mother of two boys ages 11 and 13, also talked about the importance of making time for annual screenings.

“I serve on 13 to 15 boards,” Cost said. “In the summer of 2012, I ran for mayor and won. I’m too busy to get a mammogram. Last summer, I was running a campaign. But I got it anyway.”

Cost, who recently had her last surgery after a bilateral mastectomy, bypassed chemo, but she said she knows what it’s like to get that phone call.

“You think, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to die,’” Cost said. But, if you catch it early, it’s more than likely not a death sentence, she said. “It’s a crappy year.”

Bruser said, for her, it was more like three crappy months.

“But I would do it again. I would do anything to be standing in front of you right now,” she said.

McClurkin, an 11-year survivor of breast cancer and a 10-year survivor of thyroid cancer, said she often felt so limp after chemotherapy treatments that she’d be laying in bed and feel like she couldn’t move. Around that time, she also found out that she would be having her first grandson.

“The thought of that little grandson spurred me to get up, move on and do more,” she said.

Kathryn Clary was in the unique position of being able to read her own results, although it ended up being her husband, also a physician, who told her she had cancer and that it had spread to her lymph nodes. Clary finished her last round of chemotherapy in July.

“I felt bad the weeks I got chemo, but I still lived a normal life,” Clary said. “As a doctor, especially as a pathologist, I see a lot of cancer. People are scared of it. It’s not going to get better (on its own) if it’s cancer.”

Cost echoed the sentiment to get regular check-ups and mammograms.

“You may be as busy as me, but you’re not busier than me, I guarantee it,” she said. “Love yourself, that’s how you love others. Take care of yourself, that’s how you take care of others.”