Jones learns life lessons battling cancer

Published 4:01 pm Friday, October 21, 2011

Starla Jones has not only experienced breast cancer once, but she has experienced breast cancer twice with 20 years in between.

“I was first diagnosed 20 years ago at the age of 27,” Jones said. “I had just gotten married in July and just started teaching at Greenville High School in August. I was diagnosed in September. I went through chemotherapy, surgery and radiation all through that first year.”

At her 10-year mark and appointment, she was released and was told that if she ever had cancer again, it wouldn’t be because of the first time she had it in 1990.

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With no family history or genetics, in February of 2010, Jones was diagnosed with breast cancer again. She was teaching at Fort Dale Academy and found out the day before it snowed. She went through chemotherapy, surgery and finished all of her treatments in April of this year.

“I just consider this part of my journey,” Jones said. “I decided in 2004 to do reconstruction from the first time. They wouldn’t allow me to have reconstruction immediately following the first event because they were concerned about reoccurrence.”

Twenty years ago, she said, it was very rare for someone to have reconstruction at the same time of the mastectomy. In 2004, she decided to have reconstruction and was supposed to have two procedures and be through in about three months.

“I ended up about having six procedures over a 16-month period,” Jones said.

“That last chapter completely that healed me was the reconstruction.”

Both times, Jones’ gynecologist found the abnormality because both times her mammograms had shown nothing.

The first time around, Jones said she heavily relied on her mother’s words to get her through.

“The first time, with being so young and being a newly wed, my mother was with me when we heard and my first question was ‘was I going to die?’ and she me told me ‘no’ and my second question was ‘will I be able to have children?’ and she said ‘yes.’”

Jones has a 17-year-old son that attends Fort Dale Academy.

She said the first time she was determined to have the exact plan that she wanted to get through the treatments.

“I had planned surgery first and they said ‘no we’re doing chemo first,’ and I had planned a real easy chemo and they ended up giving me real aggressive chemo,” Jones said. “I think through that first time, God finally took me to a point where he made me understand the he was in charge and I was not in charge. I always call that first time a life changing experience because it did make me realize at a young age that the things we think are important are not that important.”

Through the second time, Jones said she has not figured out her life lesson just yet.

“I guess the first time was disbelief and the second time is a sense of ‘it’s just not fair, I’ve already done this, I’ve already lost my hair, I’ve already gone through chemo, and I’ve already had mastectomy and had reconstruction.’ To have no rhyme or reason of why it’s my turn again. It’s still new.”

According to her current counts and report, Jones is looking great, and has experienced just a few side effects from chemotherapy.

She has another appointment in four months and will continue to have appointments through the next few years.