Oklahoma mother and daughter survive breast cancer together

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OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – In life there’s no user’s manual.

“People don’t tell you what to expect when you grow older,” Joyce Walton said.

It’s a journey you’ve got to put your shoes on and live, and if you’re lucky you won’t travel alone.

“We get up. We sit at the window,” Joyce said. “We have coffee, and then we go in and fix breakfast.”

Joyce and her mom, Milly Lenney, have lived together for years. They do everything together, but there’s one detour nobody ever fathomed they’d travel. Breast cancer. Not once. But twice. What are the odds.

“I’m very fortunate in that going through the cancer with her the first time made me a lot braver when I had my first one,” Joyce said. “A few days after I had my first mastectomy. I ordered a green house and put it together. I was not going to stay down.”

And you know where she got that?

“I thought if she can do it, I can do it.”

Her mom, Milly.

“Her philosophy is if you want to know how to live this long, keep moving.”

“Keep moving,” Milly said. “Don’t let that old rocking chair get ya.”

Or in this case… cancer.

Milly won her first battle decades ago in the 1960’s. Back then she was in her fifties, and treatment wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is now.

“She went through her mastectomy, then went through the cobalt,” Joyce said.

“Radical,” Milly said. “It went down my arm.”

“They pulled out muscle from her arm. When I say radical, they pulled out muscle from her arm and she wasn’t able to use her arm for a long time,” Joyce said. “It just did not look pretty.”

“My recovery just went on and on,” Milly said. “It took a couple of years before I could use my arm.”

Cobalt was a type of treatment like radiation but much harsher. It burnt the lining of Milly’s stomach, but she’s a fighter.

“Uh-huh,” she said. “Keep moving.”

Mily kept moving alright and lived 55 years cancer-free, but in 1998, Joyce was diagnosed with breast cancer. Getting treatment was a fight all its own.

“I couldn’t afford it. As I told you, I teach or did teach. My income just wasn’t good enough,” she said. “I was even working a flower tent, selling flowers. I knew I needed to go. So I started making calls.”

The American Cancer Society helped Joyce navigate her way to OU Medical Center and a special program that provided her with the surgery she needed free of charge and performed by students.

Joyce was now cancer-free just like her mom until this year. They both went in for their yearly check up and both were diagnosed with breast cancer again. Doctor Teresa Shavney performed both of their surgeries the second time.

“Back in the early sixties Milly had what we call a radical mastectomy which is where you take off the whole breast, and the muscle and every lymph node that you can find,” Dr. Shavney said.

And this year…

“She was found to have a tumor on the other side,” Shavney said.

Joyce’s first time.

“If Milly’s was on the right side, Joyce’s was on the left side,” she said. “She had what we call a modified radical mastectomy where she had the breast taken off but the muscle stayed intact and a few lymph nodes underneath her arm were taken out.”

The second time, Joyce had a lumpectomy. Both mom and daughter were in and out in a day.

“It is so important to have support around you,” Shavney said. “They make it through together. They are just so cute.”

Medicine has sure advanced over the years.

“At my age, I didn’t want to go through cancer again and all the treatment, but they talked me into it,” Milly said. “I’m a go, go, go girl. I like to go. I don’t care where just as long as I’m going. I’m a shopper.”

And she likes shoes. She’s got a special pair of diabetic shoes that she’s put her foot down about wearing.

“I just hate ugly shoes, and they’re old woman shoes, and I’m not about to wear them,” she said.

Bossy? Maybe. But you’ve gotta be in life, sometimes about shoes and other times even cancer

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