The Herculean strength of Ivy Dudley and her family helps her fight breast cancer with hope and confidence. Her daughter-in-law schedules appointments. Her son, a chef, uses his culinary skills to provide nutritious meals. While undergoing chemotherapy, Ivy’s sister came from Montgomery, AL to keep her company during her bi-weekly treatments. The single mom’s two daughters – still living at home in Mableton – switch between being helpful and aloof. “They’re teenagers,” the empathetic mom explains.
Skipping her annual mammogram in 2010, Ivy resolved to get back on schedule in 2011. In May 2011, a mammogram and subsequent ultrasound revealed a mass close to her chest wall. “I couldn’t feel it with a self-examination,” Ivy said. A few days later, a biopsy revealed cancer. She was referred to Dr. Hillary Hahm at Northwest Georgia Oncology Centers’ Marietta Cancer Center where the book smart human resources professional basked in her ability to get detailed answers to her questions.
“Dr. Hahm is a wealth of information,” Ivy said. “She explains things so thoroughly that I don’t worry about the ‘what ifs’? Not having to wonder made me feel secure and confident I could beat breast cancer.” Because Dr. Hahm believed she had a 99 percent cure rate, Ivy believed. An avid reader, Ivy boosted her confidence by learning all she could about her diagnosis – her antidote for being afraid.
The timing of the belated mammogram worked out in Ivy’s favor as it was determined the cancer was four and a half months old. Her guilt of skipping a mammogram was relieved. “I let go of could have, would have, should have,” she said. “Had I gotten my mammogram sooner, cancer may not have shown up. Even still, I’ll never miss another one.”
Stage II cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. Ivy underwent chemotherapy and more tests to help determine the best course of treatment. Ivy appreciated Dr. Hahm providing her with informed treatment options. “You feel helpless going through the process and when you’re treated with respect and given a choice, it gives you a sense of control.” So resilient was the single mom’s spirit she worked during four months of chemotherapy until her breast surgery in November.
The surgery removed what remained of the tumor and 18 lymph nodes. Ivy recently began radiation to ensure any small, rogue cancer cells are destroyed. “I’m not having a pity party, I’m simply learning to live with grace on a journey I wouldn’t have chosen for myself,” Ivy said. “I’m living through it with the quality care by Dr. Hahm and her team, the support of the Loving Arms support group and the unexpected surprises from friends along the way.”
“Most of all,” she adds, “I rely on the tireless love of my family and the glorious grace of God.”