On February 13, 2018, Mary Jones learned she was diagnosed with invasive 1A breast cancer.
“I never thought this would happen to me,” says Mary, Account Representative at America’s Car-Mart of Claremore, Okla. After nearly 20 years of negative mammograms, the positive result [of her mammogram] stunned Mary.
Because she had ongoing issues with cysts, she was diligent in getting annual mammograms, which were always followed by ultra-sounds. There was never an issue. So, she thought she was coasting along at age 56.
Once she was diagnosed, she decided to start treatments within two months. She received four rounds of two different types of chemo drugs once every three weeks and then 33 treatments of radiation every day for seven weeks.
Alas, two years later, on March 13, 2020, Mary was once again diagnosed with breast cancer. But this time, the cancer was non-evasive. However, her doctors recommended a mastectomy of her left breast.
“It’s a big decision.”
Mary made the agonizing decision to have a double mastectomy in June 2020.
“Looking ahead in the future, I decided to not take the chance of having the other breast needing to be removed. I did not want to go through this again in two years, so I decided to do the double mastectomy with reconstruction and get it over with,” says Mary.
“I was scared and overwhelmed.”
Family and faith helped Mary through her ordeal. “I got through this ordeal talking with my family, friends, and doctors. Discussing ideas on what to do, and lots of praying,” says Mary. Her family is spread all over the U.S., so emails, group text messages, personal phone calls and cards helped boost Mary’s spirits.
Additionally, Mary’s mom, Patricia, called every day from Texas. Patricia kept a calendar of Mary’s treatments and doctor appointments. “She called me every day after dinner with words of encouragement,” Mary says.
“My family kept me going as I want to be around to spend more time with all my grandbabies,” says Mary, who is a proud grandma to 21 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. “I have a big blended family with my husband’s five kids and my three!”
“I didn’t know what to expect.”
Soon after hearing the words – ‘you have breast cancer’ – Mary started her chemo treatments. “I wanted to start it fast,” says Mary. “I didn’t know what I was getting into, and I didn’t know if I would handle it okay.”
Her doctor explained the process to Mary, along with his medical assistant who happened to be Mary’s daughter, Michelle, who was there for every treatment with her mother.
Mary received the chemo through an IV so every treatment lasted three to four hours. She didn’t know how she was going to feel during and after the chemo. “I didn’t really feel anything. I just sat there and slept and read,” Mary says.
“I didn’t notice any changes until probably half-way through the chemo treatments. I had to eat with a plastic spoon as the spoon gave the food a weird taste. I couldn’t drink out of a can,” adds Mary. “I lost my hair and sense of taste. Everything had a metallic taste to it.”
Then, 12 days after her first treatment, Mary started losing her hair. It came out a little at a time, then in clumps, which hurt as it pulled on her scalp. Mary quickly decided to shave her head. “It was weird, but it wasn’t. I got a wig from the American Cancer Society, but it was itchy, so I just wore bandanas and scarves,” she says.
“I learned to appreciate what I have a lot more.”
During her cancer journey, she gained a deeper appreciation for life, as well as for the people in her life. She knows it’s important to just enjoy life and live in the moment with gratitude and appreciation.
“I used to take my husband for granted – that he would be there, no matter what,” says Mary of her husband, Donnie, who was her rock during her treatments and drove her back and forth to work every day. “He helped me with my decisions. He’s been my best friend.”
“I am thankful to Car-Mart for support along the way.”
Mary’s Car-Mart teammates stepped in to lend a helping hand when Mary needed extra help or a pick-me-up. And, as a Navy veteran, she was especially grateful when her team printed ‘we’ve got your six’ shirts in her honor.
“There were days when I didn’t feel good, and my boss told me to go home or take a power nap,” says Mary. “My teammates were great. And, if I had a bad day, they were very understanding.”
“Car-Mart is a great company to work for and everyone was very accommodating for my appointments, especially the second time around as sometimes I would have more than one appointment for any given week,” Mary continues. “Car-Mart truly cares for its associates.”
“If I can help one person, that’s one person less to perhaps experience breast cancer.”
For starters, since cancer runs in her family, Mary encouraged her younger sisters to get annual mammograms. She also encourages women to get checked at the ages required for mammograms. And, if there’s a family history of cancer, get checked sooner and keep up with annual exams.
For those who are diagnosed with breast cancer, Mary suggests learning as much as possible about the cancer and treatments. “Also know you’re not alone, ask questions, tell your doctor what you’re feeling. Don’t expect that you can do it all yourself like you used to. It can take anywhere from one month to 10 years before you feel back to normal,” says Mary. “It’s a long process. Chemo and radiation kill your cells, so you must rejuvenate. Take it one day at a time and don’t push yourself.”
“I never thought I would be the one to get breast cancer, and I did,” Mary concludes. “So, if this story helps one person, that’s one person less.”
Living in abundance after breast cancer
So, after two diagnoses, Mary is cancer-free! She stays strong and positive – living life to the fullest. After all, she has plenty of grandbabies to chase around.
At America’s Car-Mart, we’re always excited about October. It’s our annual Drive Away Cancer campaign – and you can drive away for $1,000 off your down payment! For every car we sell during October, we’ll donate a few bucks to the American Cancer Society – up to $10,000.
And we want to do all we can to raise awareness of breast cancer and all cancer. During October, we’re featuring stories of people who currently have cancer, have experienced cancer, or have helped loved ones during cancer treatments. We thank our associates for sharing their courageous stories.