Marga F. Massey, MD, CLT, FACS is board certified in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery with a commitment to women who are beginning their journey in the world of breast cancer.Learn More
Nevalynn Peagler - Dr. Marga's December 2010 Mermaid of the Month
It was a beautiful fall day; the kind of day to take a long walk on a forest path or to snuggle up in the hammock with a good book and a crunchy red apple. But October of 2001 was the beginning of a different path for me. I had just come home from work and the phone rang. Answering that call would forever change my life. I had gone for my yearly mammogram the day before and had come home relieved that it was over for the year.
"Hello," I said.
"Neva, this is Dr. Boatwright, and I have news for you. Your mammogram shows a lump on your left breast, and I want you to see Dr. West tomorrow at his Roper Berkeley offices. I have made an appointment for you at 3P.M." How did I respond? I felt sick. My body began to shake and I sat down. I began to cry as I thanked him for calling. I do not know how I made it through the rest of the day.
Dr. West scheduled surgery for Friday and in I went. A 2.5 cm tumor was removed from my breast above the nipple. It was malignant. Next was the removal of 16 lymph nodes. I was lucky that the main node and 3 surrounding nodes were the only malignant ones. I chose Dr. Elizabeth Christian as my oncologist. Not only was she a childhood friend from Greenwood, SC, but she is highly respected in her field.
My husband put aside his busy law practice and attended every single appointment with me.
I tried to hide my nausea nights from my daughter, and she spent many nights with family and friends.
Each selected Friday that I had chemotherapy for the next 6 months was an ordeal. I learned to drink lots of ginger ale and nibble on saltine crackers. After chemo came 33 radiation treatments with Dr. Mcdowell of Trident Cancer Center. My last radiation was on July 5th, 2002. I thought I was through with cancer and that life would gradually go back to normal. But I watched in horror as my left arm began to balloon up to two and three times its normal size. Back I went to the doctors. I wore compression bandages, learned massage techniques, and used a pressure sleeve machine several times a day for an hour at a time. Eight years later, Dr. Marga came to my rescue. Dr. Christian told me about her, and I tried to find Dr. Marga but she wasn't in Charleston at that time of year. I did not know that she practices in four places of our United States. Then my family doctor, Dr. David Rogers, told me he would find her for me and get someone to call me. That someone was Jenny and she helped me get an appointment to see Dr. Marga. I had a battery of tests to see if I would be a good candidate for Lymph Node Transfer surgery. Hurray!!! I was!!! Dr. Marga explained the whole surgery to me and answered all of my questions carefully. She has a way of looking at you that is serene and comforting.
On the morning of surgery, I was up before the roosters and in my hospital gown. Dr. Marga came in and talked to me again while she had fun putting all the stickers on my chart. After surgery I woke up feeling strong. How can I describe my hospital stay without mentioning all of the super sweet nurses and the lady who sang as she delivered my food tray? And how hot and good my first shower was! My walking turns around the floor allowed me to smile at other patients who were shuffling along just like me. At night, after operating all day, Dr. Marga would come to see me. She would come into the room quickly and someone was always trailing behind her whether it was Emma, my physical therapist, or Ashley or Garin, the "Dr. Marga assistants". They would all smile and everything would be just right.
Dr. Marga would begin to undress my arm, to examine it, to fret over it or to be happy with it, and I would just lay there and feel so fortunate to be getting all of this great professional care.
After a few days, I went home and began to heal. God is so good to me and some days were better than others, but I am always thankful for this opportunity to heal. Physical therapy lasted several months but it helped my arm so much. Any patient who does not complete this part of the procedure is missing out on a chance to truly heal from the surgery. I still wrap my arm with bandages every night, and wear my compression sleeve during the day; however, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel. In that light I have two normal arms. I can act normally and live normally. If Dr. Marga had not helped me, I would still be tied to that big water arm. Her expertise and knowledge have changed my life. This mermaid is living proof of Dr. Marga's determination to help lymphedema patients heal and prosper.