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84 Year Old Eva Riles Beats Breast Cancer!

Written by Roni

Eva Mae Riles is a breast cancer survivor with an inspirational story. At the age of 84, she faced breast cancer with courage, faith and strength. It has been 9 months since she received the frightening news. After a mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation she has been cleared of any cancer cells. I worked with Mrs. Riles as her Personal Trainer for a year prior to her diagnosis. And now, she has actually started her exercise program again! I had a chance to interview Mrs. Riles and her daughter, Beverly Martin, to find out how she fought breast cancer and what advice she can give to other women.

Roni: When and how did you first find out you had breast cancer?

Eva Riles: It was on Sunday, January 5, 2014, I noticed it while I was in the shower doing my self examination. I was rubbing my right breast and felt it. I rubbed other areas and then came back to the knot.

Beverly Martin: She didn’t tell me until that Thursday (January 9th) after she noticed it on that Sunday. I asked her why she didn’t tell me sooner. She said she was hoping it was sore because she had hit it (even though she couldn’t remember hitting it) and it would go away. I told her the doctor’s office is closed now but you call them first thing in the morning.

ER: I called my doctor’s office the next morning (January 10th) and told them I needed to come in because I feel a lump in my right breast. They told me they close at noon. I said "I don’t care what time you close, I will be there in a few minutes as a walk- in". I saw the nurse practitioner who verified the lump and referred me to a surgeon.

BM: On Jan. 13th, she was seen by Dr. Teresa Goodpaster who did the biopsy of the lump and sent it to the pathologist. The pathology report showed cancer cells present. Mom was informed of all options available, but the best option was to have a mastectomy, removal of the whole right breast.

R: What stage was the diagnosis?

BM: Stage 3C and it was an aggressive and rare form of breast cancer.

R: How did you feel when you first received the news?

ER: I was frightened. I didn’t know what to expect.

R: What were your main concerns after being diagnosed?

ER: Well, the thoughts of taking chemo made me nervous because I had heard others talk about how it made them feel. So I was more afraid of having to take chemo than breast cancer.

R: How did your family react to the news?

ER: They were calm….except for my son, JD. (laughing)

BM: My heart dropped when she first called me and told me she felt a knot in her breast. I said to her "you wait until you get 84 to get cancer". (laughing)

R: When you found your lump how long had it been since your last mammogram?

ER: A year, because a few years ago a very small spot was seen so I would get them once a year.

R: Is there a family history of breast cancer?

BM: Yes, Mom’s sister died of breast cancer when she was in her late 30s. She’s had 2 aunts to die of breast cancer. One of her nieces had both of her breasts removed because of breast cancer. Also, my Mom's mother died of cervical cancer when she was in her 40s.

R: Tell me about the surgery. Who did the surgery?

BM: She had surgery on Jan. 27th, which removed the whole right breast and all 17 cancerous lymph nodes in the breast.

ER: Dr. Goodpaster did my surgery. I told her she can take both breast if she wanted to because I don’t need them. I’m an old woman. (laughing)

R: Were you afraid of the surgery?

ER: I was a little. Then I said "if I gotta have surgery, then I gotta have it". My Pastor (Rev. Riley Henderson) prayed with me before the surgery and after he prayed all of my doubts and fears were gone. I said, “Lord I’m in your hands, guide the doctor’s hands and let them do what’s right”. Pastor Henderson took my hand and told me everything was gonna be alright as long as I have faith and you got it. He brought me more consolation then anybody.

R: Let’s talk about the treatment process. Where did you receive your treatment and who was your primary oncologist?

BM: She had her treatment at Jackson Hospital Infusion Center in Marianna, FL.

Dr. David Flick was her primary oncologist.

R: How long was the treatment plan?

BM: Because of her age, history of high blood pressure, diabetes and kidney disease, they wanted her to start with a mild form of chemotherapy. She started the first session of chemo Feb. 26th. She was originally scheduled to have four cycles (4 treatments) of chemo, but the oncologist decided to increase it by 2 more cycles because of the severity of the stage of cancer which was stage 3C an aggressive and rare form of breast cancer. The last day of chemo treatment was June 23rd and afterwards she was referred to a radiologist for radiation treatments. The radiologist consulted and verified it to be 36 cycles of treatment needed occurring almost everyday. She finished radiation treatment on August 26th.

R: So, there were a total of 6 chemotherapy treatments? How were the treatments spaced out and how long was each treatment?

BM: Yes, she went once every 3 weeks for her chemo. Each treatment was 2 to 2 ½ hours long. After finishing the 6 chemo treatments, she went to radiation for 36 days, Monday – Friday. These treatments were only about 15 minutes long.

R: Did you face any problems during your treatment process? If so, how did you overcome them?

BM: After her 4th treatment cycle, her white blood cell count dropped and they had to give her an injection to increase the white blood cells. They can’t do chemo if the white blood cells are low. After that, she was back strong again.

R: Were there any programs or services offered?

BM: Yes, the Lydia Project gave her a handmade designer tote with encouraging items and a journal. They would call her once or twice a month to check on her. They also gave her a head wrap.

R: Did you have a support network?

ER: Thank God for my kids! They all have really been good to me! My daughters came up from Miami to be with me. Bev (Beverly Martin) really stuck by me and is still sticking by me. My food was always on time. She takes me to my doctor appointments. My son, JD and son-in-law, Charles also have taken me.

R: When is your next ultrasound or mammogram?

ER: I don’t have to go back until January.

R: What do you believe was the key to your success?

ER: God & my family. God was with me!

BM: I believe because she had been exercising, her body was strong & that helped her too. Also, Mom had a good attitude she said “it is what it is, I’m 84 years old & I can’t complain. I’ve been married and I got kids. I’m at peace either way. Ok, so I got it, now what do we do next?” (laughing)

R: What advice would you like to give to women about breast cancer?

ER: Trust in God, go to the doctor and pay attention to what the doctor tell you.

God is the only one that can bring you through it. You may feel that it is hard, uncomfortable, and frightening because you don’t know what’s going on. These things are to be expected.

R: You must have been relieved when it was finally over.

ER: Yes, thank God it’s over and I’m glad about it!

R: Your 85th birthday is coming up next month (November). What are you going to do

for your birthday?

ER: I’m going to celebrate life! My kids told me not to plan anything, so I’m sure they’re planning something. But, I’m going to celebrate life, honey! (laughing)

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