By Deanna Kirk
Corsicana Daily Sun
Meagan Gould is a pretty, petite wife and mother who molds and shapes young minds as the director of the Westminster Child Enrichment Program at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Her 4-year-old son, Jaxon, is a student there, as well. Her days could sometimes be a blur of activity, between her home life, her large extended family and the families at the school.
But it all came to a screeching halt two days after Meagan’s 28th birthday with one telephone call.
“For nearly a year I had not felt well, and had gone to all kinds of doctors,” Meagan said. “Wellness doctors, gastro doctors, and my blood work looked fine.”
By her own confession, Meagan had not been very consistent with her breast self-exams, but one day she discovered a hard lump on the outside of her right breast.
“I still wasn’t in a rush to get to the doctor,” she said. “My mother is the one who pushed me to get to the doctor. If it weren’t for her ...”
Dr. Bill Lee of Ennis (where Meagan grew up) sent her to Baylor Hospital for a mammogram. He had diagnosed Meagan when she was 15 with type I diabetes, which means checking her sugar and taking an insulin shot with meals.
“He has saved my life twice,” Meagan said.
Once she got to Baylor, nurses and other health professionals kept saying how it was not unusual for women Meagan’s age to have fibroid cysts in their breasts. Immediately after her mammogram, they performed a needle biopsy of the lump itself, which she described as “pretty painful.”
“It seemed like a lifetime until I got the results,” she said. “I was at work one day, all the kids were on the playground, and it was quiet. I called, and the woman told me it was cancer. It was June 11, 2012, two days after my 28th birthday. I still get emotional thinking about it.”
Meagan recalls going out on the playground to get Angie Young, the assistant director. She shared the diagnosis with Angie, who was very comforting, then called her husband, Jason Gould, to meet her at their home, along with her mother.
“I have a tremendous support system,” she said. “The power of prayer is truly remarkable, and I’ve been on many prayer lists.”
Her son Jaxon was 3 years old, and she went back and forth on how to tell him, or how much to tell him.
“There are some really sweet books that help explain when Mama gets cancer to a little boy,” Meagan said. “When I went through chemo and started losing my hair, that was pretty traumatic for me. Jaxon went with me to get my head shaved, and when I picked out my wig.”
Another who found the hair loss traumatic was Meagan’s grandfather, George Robinson. He was in the midst of his own battle with pancreatic cancer, having been diagnosed two months before Meagan was.
“It was crazy for us to be going through it at the same time, very emotional for him,” she said. “The first time he saw me after I shaved my head, he tried to put on a smile, but he just lost it.”
Her grandmother Wanda and her mother both helped George and Meagan on their journey, as did Jason, Meagan’s husband. Her sister, Morgan Hickerson of Forney, put together a memory book for Meagan of photographs and hand-written notes from friends, family, acquaintances, parents from the school, for her to keep and look at during spells when she felt down.
A cousin who worked at Baylor Hospital connected Meagan with a breast surgeon, Dr. Michael Grant. He gave her three options: a lumpectomy, where he just removed the lump; a mastectomy, where he removed just the affected breast; or a bilateral mastectomy, where he would remove both breasts.
“I chose the bilateral mastectomy,” she said.
“I prayed about it, talked to family, to Jason ... but I didn’t want to go through this again. And I am still happy about that decision.”
Meagan had a PET Scan, then a surgery for a lymph node dissection. The PET scan was clear, but two lymph nodes were affected, because the cancer was beginning to spread.
“That made it Stage II Invasive Ductile Carcinoma,” she said. “There are some breast cancers that are estrogen receptor, some are progesterone receptor, and HER II, which is caused by protein. Once they know what your kind is, they know better how to treat it, and there are so many different kinds.
“Mine was triple negative, which meant that none of those factors cause it, which is kind of scary. It tends to grow and spread more rapidly than other types. And that is another reason I feel like it was caught just in time.”
Her bilateral mastectomy and immediate reconstruction only resulted in two nights in the hospital, and Meagan was back at work within three weeks.
“Jaxon was my main reason to keep going,” she said. “My husband was amazing. I am so blessed.”
Her reconstruction required a total of four surgeries, the last of which will occur in December if everything stays on schedule. A recent brief stay in the hospital was the result of an infection from one reconstructive surgery.
Her doctors were all wonderful, she said, but she is especially admiring of her oncologist, Dr. John Pippen. Meagan had eight chemo treatments, which were every other week, in Dallas at the new Sammons Cancer Center. She also did 33 rounds of radiation, also in Dallas at 8:30 a.m. each day Monday through Friday.
“I was back in Corsicana by 10 a.m. some days, back at work,” she said. “I had some fatigue with the radiation, but tolerated it very well.”
The chemo, however, was a little different story. George Robinson passed away in November 2012, and Meagan’s last chemo treatment was right after he passed away, the day of his visitation, in fact.
“I ran home (from chemo) and changed clothes and made it, and even though the chemo would knock me on my booty for a few days, I made it to my grandfather’s funeral.”
Meagan’s other grandfather passed away that year, as well. She admits that it was a hard year for her family, and she declares that next year will be much, much better.
“One thing that might help others is, let people in. Let people help you,” she said.
“I used to be more ‘closed,’ but you can’t do this alone. You have to accept the help. The parents at the school have been so sweet, I have such a great support system. It does make you appreciate the little things ... like my hair blowing in the wind. It feels so good! And Jaxon.
“I try not to take any days for granted.”
Deanna Kirk may be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Want to “Soundoff” on this story? Email: email@example.com