Area native survives breast cancer with positivity and community support
“I cannot put into words the feeling I felt whenever I heard the words “you have cancer,” said Stephanie Honeycutt-Smith, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in her 30s.
A resident of West Plains and Oregon County native, Smith was diagnosed in April of 2012 after a self-exam.
“I was 38 years old and not really concerned about having breast cancer, but I could tell it was something that I needed to get checked,” said Smith.
During her battle with breast cancer, it was discovered Smith is a carrier of the BRCA 1 gene that led to treatment required for her fight against the disease.
According to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc., the BRCA gene is an abbreviation for “BReast CAncer gene.” This includes the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 that impact the chances of a person developing breast cancer.
These genes are known as tumor suppressors. “when a gene becomes altered or broken, it doesn’t function correctly” resulting in a gene mutation, is stated on nationalbreastcancer.org.
According to National Breast Cancer Foundation, Inc. “It is estimated that one in eight women, or approximately 12 percent, will be diagnosed with breast cancer in her lifetime.
However, women with certain genetic mutations have a higher lifetime risk of the disease. It’s estimated that 55 – 65 percent of women with the BRCA1 mutation will develop breast cancer before age 70.
Approximately 45 percent of women with a BRCA2 mutation will develop breast cancer by age 70.”
“Dr. Eck was the first doctor I worked with in this journey and him and his staff were so amazing. Their positive attitude and compassion got my journey off to a good start,” said Smith.
Smith was also worked with Ozarks Medical Center Oncology Department. Smith stated they were also wonderful during her journey.
“I had a mastectomy and reconstruction at Barnes Jewish in St Louis, where they determined I carried the BRCA 1 gene that led to the type of treatment I would need.
Smith’s journey included a year of traveling to St. Louis, chemo treatments and surgeries.
“I had such a strong support system of family and friends. My husband, Kevin, went with me to every treatment and appointment. The community of West Plains and the staff at Howell Valley School District were amazing. I actually felt the prayers surrounding me with a peace that passes all understanding. My parents and children rallied around me. As scary as cancer is, there were so many positive emotions that came from that time in my life. My relationship with my Lord grew stronger and it taught me a renewed compassion,” said Smith.
Even though it has been eight years since Smith’s breast cancer battle, she visits the oncologist for check-ups every year.
Now, Smith will implement the experience of her journey to help someone close and dear to her, as her mom was recently diagnosed with breast cancer a few weeks ago. It was discovered her mom also carries the gene.
“I was so hoping she would not face this battle, but I know she will not face it alone and she will be lifted up by all the friends and family who raised me up and loved me through it. She will also feel the peace of the prayers that go up for her,” said Smith.
When asked what she would tell those who are diagnosed with breast cancer, Smith stated to surround oneself with positivity including family, friends and doctors.
“Attitude is so much of the battle. As a patient, you have to be your own advocate. Take a friend with you to ask questions and write things down. Eat healthy and stay active. Make sure to get those mammograms. Early detection really is important with breast cancer,” said Smith.