Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Rhonda Spinks

Breast cancer - Stage III hormone-positive

This testimonial includes a description of this patient’s actual medical results. Those results may not be typical or expected for the particular disease type described in this testimonial. You should not expect to experience these results.

View CTCA treatment results for breast cancer

My story

I was 30 years old when I found a lump on my breast. Cancer was the furthest thing from my mind. I was healthy and active. My husband and I had just gotten married a few months earlier. No one in my family had cancer. And I was too busy to dwell on any health issues. I had just started a master’s degree program in biology, I was rock climbing, I was in the military, and I was active with our church. No, it can’t be cancer. It couldn’t be. It wasn’t that I was pushing the thought out of my mind; I honestly believed there was no way I could have cancer.

After a couple of months the lump was still there, so I finally decided to get it checked. I had some tests done, and of course it’s never a good sign when the doctor tells you he or she wants to do further testing. But still, I was thinking no, it can’t be cancer.

My husband and I were together in the waiting room when I went to see the doctor after the last test results. We were joking around and planning the rest of our day. Life was normal. I wasn’t nervous about the news at all. Then the doctor informed us that I had a very aggressive form of breast cancer and it was in stage three. I needed surgery right away, followed by chemotherapy and possibly radiation.

I was totally blindsided by the news. It was like someone had knocked the wind out of me. I went completely numb. I felt my husband squeeze my hand, and in my head are the words, “in sickness and in health.” Talk about putting your vows into practice.

At that time I knew very little about cancer, and what I did know involved death. I didn’t feel sick. In fact, I felt totally healthy. I didn’t know how to process the fact that I wasn’t.

As we drove home, I became increasingly devastated. We got on the phone some people close to me. It was just a diagnosis, they emphasized to me. Reconnect with your purpose. Everything was still ahead of me. They recommended calling Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA), and I ended up going there for a second opinion.

Going to CTCA

I had seen commercials for CTCA® but had never paid attention. It wasn’t on my radar. When I called, the person I spoke with was so friendly and kept telling me that CTCA would take care of everything for me—finding out about insurance coverage, scheduling appointments, and whatever else I needed.

When I went for an initial visit, I was amazed. Walking into CTCA was like entering a five-star hotel. I decided to pursue treatment at CTCA.

The first step of my care was a mastectomy on my right breast and the removal of 19 lymph nodes. That procedure was followed by chemotherapy for six months, with two drugs the first three months and another drug for three more months, and then seven weeks of radiation.

I lived in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at the time, so I drove to CTCA for treatments and then returned home. The first round of chemotherapy was very difficult. I was nauseous and extremely weak. I couldn’t get out of bed. Someone from CTCA called two or three days after each treatment round to see how I was doing. When I developed nausea, they prescribed a different anti-emetic medication to try. I experienced tingling in my fingers and the soles of my feet, like an itch that you can’t scratch. Their solution for this problem was soaking my feet in ice-cold water or hot water.

When all the treatments were completed, the diagnostic tests showed no visible signs of cancer. I have been in remission ever since.

It’s in the attitude

What I valued the most during my treatment was the love I felt. When people are happy to see you and they treat you like royalty, it makes a huge difference in your well-being. Cancer can make a person feel like an oddball. The last thing anyone needs is to feel like a burden or like your doctor or nurse doesn’t have time for you. Being treated so lovingly flipped a switch in me. It helped me look forward in a positive way. The loving support of my husband, family and friends was also huge in this turnaround.

I also looked inside myself for strength. I knew that I still had work to do here, and that helped me through the harder days. Today I work as a wildlife biologist tracking bats and protecting bat species on the federal endangered species list. I am also a captain in the military and I do holistic health coaching for cancer survivors.

It was hard not being active, so I worked at regaining my strength as soon as I could. A few years after my diagnosis, I placed second in my first body building competition. My husband and I are starting to plan our future now.

After my diagnosis and during treatment, I needed help working through the mental challenges. Staying intact requires constant attention. With chemotherapy, the side effects come in cycles with the treatment. I would feel ill the first week after, then better by the second, and just when I was back to normal it was time for the next round. It was frustrating, and dealing with the ups and downs needed constant attention. I turned to Scripture, drawing strength in particular from the phrase, “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine but a broken spirit crushes the bone.” I noticed that my physical state was very connected to my emotional and mental state. If I was happy on the inside, I felt better. On my bad days mentally, I felt ten times worse in my body.

The simple things

When a doctor informs you that you’re very sick, it can feel as if you’ve lost control. I discovered that finding small things that I could have control over really helped. It could be as simple as a craft project, but something that I could do on my own. I also found little things throughout the day to be thankful for. There are plenty waiting to be found.

Learning about breast cancer and its treatment was also very helpful. I became knowledgeable about what was going on inside my body. That investment made me feel like I was part of my own care, which was very helpful.

Patients who’d come through the other side inspired me. When I was in my worst moments, these patients were the light at the end of the tunnel. 

And CTCA was incredible. They knew my husband by name and they welcomed him just like they welcomed me. They ask about him when I go for my annual follow-up visits. Thanks to CTCA, I picture a moment in life that can be overcome.