Health People

Pink October: Woman didn’t let breast cancer diagnosis steal her zest for life

(Editor’s note: Pink October is a series highlighting breast cancer awareness month)

Life is an adventure for Caroline Ashe-Teague.

“I have always been very active,” she said.

She’s the friend people call when they need someone to go somewhere with them.  She has a good marriage to husband, Luke, a job with Ivey Homes that she enjoys and a creative outlet in competitive ballroom dance.

But on Sept. 16, 2022, she received news that no one wants to hear.

Caroline Ashe-Teague

“My doctor said ‘There’s no easy way to say this. It is breast cancer, but you’re not going to die,” said Ashe-Teague, who had the invasive lobular carcinoma, the second most common form of breast cancer.

October is breast cancer awareness month.

“Overall, the average risk of a woman in the United States developing breast cancer sometime in her life is about 13%. This means there is a one in eight chance she will develop breast cancer. This also means there is a seven in eight chance she will never have the disease,” according to the American Cancer Society website.

A few weeks before her diagnosis, she’d seen something in the mirror that didn’t look right, and then she felt something in her breast. She scheduled an appointment which led to a biopsy and the diagnosis.

“The biggest emotion I felt was being heartbroken,” she said. “The fact I love life so much. I really felt like in that moment I might never be able to dance again.”

But Ashe-Teague didn’t stay in that place long.

She went to business and asked all the questions of what would happen next. Her doctor warned her that life was getting ready to go from zero to 1,000 miles an hour, and Ashe-Teague said she had more doctor’s appointments and procedures over those next few weeks than she’d had in her entire life until that point.

Read more: Miracle Mile Walk set for Oct. 21

While the initial mass was in her right breast, further scans indicated that something was forming in her left breast.

Although Ashe-Teague had kept up with her yearly mammograms and monthly self-breast exams, doctors estimated the tumor had been growing, hidden within her dense breast tissue, for about three years.

Ashe-Teague opted for a double mastectomy even though her doctor said she probably could’ve saved one breast. At first, Ashe-Teague considered undergoing reconstruction, but she later changed her mind after weighing the risks and possible complications associated with additional surgeries.

“I could not be more happy with that decision. It took the fear out of what the future holds,” she said.

She underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy and 33 radiation treatments. She said she was fortunate with the side effects; the main one was fatigue.

“I worked through my treatments. I danced through my entire treatment. Some days I could only do 20 minutes of my lesson, but I still kept my time to go. It was a release. It’s always been a mental release for me,” she said. “During that time, I was making sure that the cancer was not going to take that part of my life.”

Ballroom dancing helped Caroline Ashe-Teague as she went through treatment for breast cancer. Courtesy photo

And her faith played a huge role in keeping a positive mental attitude.

“I’ve always been a faithful person. As soon as I was diagnosed, I turned to Jesus and said ‘I need some peace that it’s going to be o.k.,” she said.

 Her last treatment at Augusta Oncology was on July 11 when she rang the bell surrounded by family and friends.

The whirlwind year was just that – a whirlwind that came through but passed quickly.

“It went by so fast,” she said. “In that day of diagnosis, I felt like it was going to be a daunting time.”

She will continue taking medication including Tamoxifen for five years and another chemo pill for two years in an effort to keep the cancer from returning.

She said she received so much support from friends and family and the medical community in Augusta.

“So many people poured into us,” she said. “I couldn’t be more grateful.”

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at Sign up for the newsletter here.

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