Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center
Surviving Breast Cancer
"They said there was a one percent chance it was cancer," said U.S. Air Force Veteran and VA Employee Lutricia "Treeka" Overton.
On June 22, 2007 at the young age of 32, Overton was diagnosed with breast cancer.
During a gathering at a friend's home in April 2007 she felt a sharp pain in her right breast. Her Florida-based physician treated her for what was thought to be a cyst the small size of pea. However, in just three months the lump grew from the size of a pea to the size of a golf ball.
"I have no family history of breast cancer, and I was so young. The doctor was not thinking that it could be cancer," said Overton. After Overton's medical team saw how rapidly the lump was growing they scheduled her for an ultra sound in June 2007. That ultra sound led to a lumpectomy at the end of that month.
"I woke up to my husband standing at the foot of my hospital bed in tears," said Overton. "They had already told him it was cancer. I couldn't believe it. I had cancer."
In September 2007 Overton started on four months of chemo, followed by 35 days of radiation.
At each appointment Overton brought her journal to record what her doctor told her and jotted down questions she had for her medical team. She was later told her that this attention to detail and close involvement with her own care could have been one of the reasons she beat cancer.
Just last month, on September 23, 2015, Overton celebrated eight years of being cancer free! "I live in fear every time I go to the doctor," said Overton. "So getting to my eight year anniversary is exciting and something worth celebrating!"
This life-altering experience has given Overton a new appreciation for life. She is enjoying spending time with her two daughters and helping out fellow Veterans at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center. Overton is a patient advocate at the Charleston VAMC. In this position she helps Veterans and their families navigate the healthcare system, synchronize appointments, and address any of their concerns along the way. She is committed to assisting Veterans with timely and compassionate care.
"My experience has given me great empathy for my fellow Veterans who are going through tough medical issues. It makes me want to go above and beyond to help them because I've been there, I know what it's like, and I understand the difficulties both the Veteran and family can face. I am committed to helping them find every resource the VA offers," said Overton.
Overton looks forward to reaching her 10 year cancer free mark. At that milestone she will no longer require close monitoring by an oncologist, she will have routine yearly mammograms, similar to the health care screening recommendations for all women.