Breast cancer battle: age is just a number

Breast cancer survivor Peggy McDaniel
Breast cancer survivor Peggy McDaniel
Dr. James Carinder, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center: Covington, Louisiana
Dr. James Carinder, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center: Covington, Louisiana
Photo Credit: WDAM
Photo Credit: WDAM
Photo Credit: WDAM
Photo Credit: WDAM

Franklinton, LA (WDAM) - She may not get around quite like she use to, but if you ask her, at 78 years old, Peggy McDaniel, who happens to be my own grandmother, has lots more laughing and living to do. That's something she's extremely thankful for, considering the curve ball life threw at her.

In July of 2011, a routine mammogram found an area to watch, but nothing of immediate concern. Then, in March 2012, at the age of 74, a self examine changed everything.

"One night I got in the shower. I discovered this lump in my breast that hadn't been there before and shouldn't be there," said McDaniel.

A biopsy would show a positive match for breast cancer.

"I was a little shocked because that's usually the last thing a person thinks of, is having cancer," said McDaniel

Her new, unknown journey would lead to an exam room, under the care of Doctor James Carinder at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington, Louisiana. Doctor Carinder says ninety five percent of breast cancers are diagnosed in women over the age of 40.

"She had a smaller tumor," said Carinder, talking about McDaniel's diagnosis. "The two greatest risk factors for getting breast cancer, one is being female, the other is aging."

As folks live longer, Doctor Carinder says with it, comes an increase for everyone's risk of some form of cancer.

"As you age, cell mutate. They change," said Carinder.

That's why Doctor Carinder says elderly folks should never assume their age erases their chances.

When asked if she thought, at her age, she would have to deal with breast cancer, McDaniel said never.

Having no known family history of breast cancer added to the shock, but Doctor Carinder says it doesn't play that big of a role anyway.

"If you have a first degree relative that has breast cancer, your risk is higher, but only 10 percent of the cases are genetically related," said Carinder.

After having a bilateral mastectomy in the summer of 2012 and four rounds of chemo, this now great-grandmother is getting ready to celebrate five years of survival. She says the entire ordeal takes a lot of self determination and support.

"You don't get down, you just keep going," said McDaniel. "Don't take age as a factor. You say 'Well, I'm 80 years old, it's too old to worry about it.' Be sure and go. Always check yourself."