There’s never a good time for bad news — especially when the diagnosis is breast cancer.
But learning that the cancer has been growing for a long time, hidden and unsuspected, is even more difficult. That’s exactly what happened to Connie Whittington Quick a few days before Christmas.
Quick, 39, a teller for First Bank, was asymptomatic and unaware of the cancerous cells growing inside her. Then, she noticed a lump in her breast. It was a little sore and she didn’t think much of it, but told her husband she would go ahead and get it checked out.
“I honestly would have never dreamed that it would have been cancer,” she said. “I thought they would come back with good news, that it was a cyst or that I’d been drinking too much caffeine.”
Quick’s husband, Andy, shared her positive outlook as they awaited the results. One afternoon, two or three days before Christmas, her doctor called when she wasn’t at her Cordova home. Andy took the call, and told his wife the doctor would be calling back in 15 minutes. She arrived home. The minutes ticked by slowly before the phone finally rang.
“She was very emotional in the beginning when she found out about it,” said Stephanie Blount, a friend and co-worker.
Quick’s daughter Madison, 13, took the news harder than her older brother Logan, 15, who, like his father, was more encouraging and supportive.
“Going back to that day,” Quick said, “I just remember Madison taking it so hard. She was so emotional and scared.”
Logan and Andy were strong for the family. They reassured Madison that mom was going to be alright and offered hugs and love throughout the difficult first weeks of the unexpected battle with cancer.
After the holidays and during Quick’s double mastectomy, it was discovered that her breast cancer had progressed to Stage IIIA. This meant that the cancer had spread to axillary lymph nodes, or lymph nodes near the breastbone. Not only that, but complications following the operation required her to return for a second surgery.
Quick’s first chemotherapy treatment was last week and there’s a long road ahead. She still has to undergo chemo every three weeks for a total of six treatments, followed by up to six weeks of radiation therapy every weekday for 15 minutes per day. And after that, an immune therapy for the rest of the year.
“From the first moment,” Quick said, “I knew I was going to be strong. But when I went to the cancer doctor I made the mistake of asking her if I was going to be okay and she couldn’t tell me that. She couldn’t tell me. She said the treatments are designed to make me okay and that wasn’t what I wanted to hear. I lost it after I walked out of the office. That day was worse than the day I first found out I had cancer. But I have so many people supporting me. My family and friends, people at church. I know that the oncologist is not the one who tells me whether I’m going to live or die.”
Quick continues to work at First Bank, taking time off only when needed for her treatments. Her customers and co-workers have been tremendously supportive.
“I had a few customers come in and say they were going to talk to Marshall at Pat’s Kitchen,” she said. “Then Stephanie and other co-workers had mentioned doing it. They just told me one day they were going to do it.”
Enter Marshall Berry of Pat’s Kitchen. Berry has coordinated numerous fundraisers over the years to benefit members of the community. The funds — and hope — raised from these events are incalculable. The Connie Quick Fight Like a Girl Benefit takes place from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. March 29 at the restaurant.
“All of the proceeds go right to Connie,” Berry said. “I like to do these benefits because of the desire to help somebody. That good, loving feeling you get out of it.”
Quick attends Abundant Life church in East Rockingham. Pastor Joe Wilkes, leader of the nondenominational church, is organizing a van load of church members to travel to the benefit together. Many of them are baking cakes to help out.
What advice can be given to someone like Quick, who suddenly goes from feeling fine to learning she has an advanced stage of cancer?
“I’m going to be honest,” Quick said. “I don’t think anybody could be prepared for this. Be positive. Don’t be negative. Don’t worry when you don’t have to, I don’t know. There’s no way to prepare anybody for this. Your heart goes out to anybody who has cancer, but until you go through it — it’s just overwhelming. It’s like your life flashes before you.”
If you go
The benefit at Pat’s Kitchen at 1240 E. Broad Avenue will sell chicken and barbecue plates for $7, eat in or take out.
Live entertainment and a silent auction are scheduled, and raffle tickets for a Holland gas grill will be available for purchase. Pre sale tickets are available at both of Rockingham’s First Bank locations and at Pat’s Kitchen.
For more information, Call Stephanie at 910-895-1208, or Marshall at 910-331-4204.