In 2003, Roberta Carter was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer. She received her initial care with a community provider, undergoing a lumpectomy to remove the tumor in her right breast. At first, the surgery was deemed a success, but a week later, her doctor called to inform her that there were still some cancerous cells around the margins where her tumor was, and that they would need to operate again.
Roberta and her family decided it was time for a second opinion. She met with Massey Surgical Oncologist Brian Kaplan, M.D., who recommended a total mastectomy.
“If I think back, if I hadn’t gotten that second opinion, would I be here now? Sometimes you’ve got to step out on faith and go on a little further down the road,” says Roberta.
After surgery, Roberta received her chemotherapy treatments closer to her home in Warsaw, Virginia. She was then placed on a hormone therapy regimen and finally achieved remission.
Unfortunately, in 2011, Roberta started experiencing worrying symptoms and came back to Massey. Her care team found that the cancer had come back and was affecting her right lung. She had a thoracentesis performed, a procedure to draw fluid off of her lungs. She began a new treatment involving additional chemotherapy in 2014. Roberta had not had chemotherapy in 11 years, but she was determined to not let it get her down.
Roberta continued to keep a positive attitude throughout all of her tribulations, and feels fortunate to be only an hour away from Massey. “I’m sticking with Dr. Kaplan!” she exclaimed. “Everyone from the staff at the front desk to the nurses in the chemo area are outstanding.”
Not only did Roberta stay positive for herself, but also for her son, who is now in college. In addition, she encourages fellow cancer patients in her community to adopt an optimistic attitude.
“In my area, I try to reach out to other patients who have been newly diagnosed and talk to them,” Roberta explains. She also leaves educational or inspirational literature with the patients and invites them to call her with any questions they may have. “When patients are diagnosed at first, sometimes they start to feel secluded. Having been through it myself, I try to open the door just a little bit, and tell them that there is hope, and to keep the faith.”
Roberta makes sure to cover all of her bases with the new patients. She stresses the importance of eating well and advises them to make a list of their favorite foods, and to continue to push themselves to eat every day.
“It’s very important to have a good support system, and to try to remain calm and not stress out about little things that you may not have any control over,” says Roberta, who doesn’t just help her fellow cancer patients. She also opens her arms to friends and family members of patients who might have questions.
Roberta also tries to help patients navigate difficult decisions. She always tells them that there are options, and the choice is theirs.
Currently, Roberta is receiving hormone treatments once a month at Massey and is progressing very well. “I’m still at the point where I am limited in the things I can do, but I try to keep the spirit up, and keep going and be a positive influence for others,” she says. “As a cancer patient, I’ve learned through the years that you must stay focused, determined, unmovable, and remain on the course to the finish line.”