When Tana Massey, fiancée of Grove Sun sports editor Richard Stroud, fell in the winter of 2009, she thought she had just hurt her back but didn’t worry much about it.
“The doctors took x-rays and didn’t find anything, but when I continued to hurt all January and February I started to think a little differently” she said.
“I kinda had a feeling,” she said, “but no one wants to believe (they have cancer).”
Massey said her chest and back hurt but it wasn’t until July when the doctors found out what was wrong. At age 35, doctors diagnosed her with Stage 4 breast cancer that had spread to her liver, brain, brain stem and spine. The doctors told her because she was so young they would fight this aggressively.
“I told them, ‘Do what you need to do.’ That’s the attitude I had through the whole thing.”
Her recovery has been amazing considering how far her cancer had spread.
“I am doing very well. I have excellent doctors and just kept my head down and just kept going,” she said.
Massey truly believes she didn’t do this alone. She had a lot of support from her mother, aunts, brothers, and friends.
“People prayed for me all over the world”. Including one of her mother’s friends who went to Jerusalem and prayed at the Wailing Wall.
Tana’s family is Cherokee so her mom had a medicine man come to the hospital. She doesn’t remember very much of the ceremony but she remembers him blessing her and saying many prayers.
“Mom even had a harpist come to my room. She saw him downstairs and asked him if he would play for her daughter and he said it would be a pleasure. I asked, ‘Did I die mom?’ She said, ‘No, just listen!’”
Massey stayed in her mother’s home during chemo recovery, which was great because she was able to bring her dachshund Sally.
“After my chemo treatments I would go to mom’s and Sally was always by my side. She wouldn’t leave me. She became my ‘Chemo Dog,’” she said.
“Attitude has a lot to do with it.” Massey said.
She would encourage others who would get down at the center by telling them “You can make it, I’m a stage 4. If I can do it you can do it.” One time someone asked her “How are you still alive?” She told them, “I don’t know, but I am, so you can do it too!”
Massey had a double mastectomy in March and was out for only a month. She’s had one re-constructive surgery and was only out for a week. She said her chemo treatments weren’t fun, but not nearly as bad as it is for some.
“They have new medicines that help a lot with nausea, etc.,” she said.
She wants others to know that early detection is so important. She explained that treatment is so different when detected early.
“It made me so angry to hear they want to change exams to every two years. If we were talking about testicular cancer they wouldn’t change it,” she added.
Her advice to others diagnosed with cancer is it’s like climbing a mountain.
“Keep your head down and keep walking and every once in a while poke your head up, see where you are going, and put it back down again - you can do it. That’s honestly how I felt,” she said.
Massey also believes she was assigned, in her own opinion, three of the best doctors.
“I have state care and it was just amazing. The oncologist, the cyberknife surgeon, and the breast doctor were all very nice people and shared their stories with me,” she said, “I wasn’t just a number or SoonerCare patient.”
Her oncologist is Dr. Ali Moussa at Cancer Care Associates Tulsa Mid-town. Dr. Diane Heaton is her radiologist/Cyberknife medical doctor and Dr. Lanette Smith is her breast care specialist and performed her bi-lateral mastectomy.
Massey and Stroud are engaged to be married but when Massey was asked when they will tie the knot she replied, “I am not getting married until I have boobs and hair!”