ELLERBE — Linda Dunn Lovin said she never broke down after learning she had breast cancer.
The day of her diagnosis, she remained strong. Through all the testing, she never stopped to dwell on it. It wasn’t until the day of her scheduled surgery in Pinehurst that she finally “lost it” just before undergoing an outpatient procedure to remove one lump and the lymph nodes from the left side of her body.
Lovin said she’d been diagnosed with a kind of breast cancer called invasive ductal carcinoma. It is most common in women 55 and older.
“I’m the kind of person who has always gone in for my mammogram every year,” she said. “But last year, I didn’t go. This year when I went, that’s when they found it.”
After the mammogram results and an ultrasound at FirstHealth Richmond Memorial Hospital in Rockingham, Lovin said her doctor told her to go to FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital.
It happened fast, she said. From June 23 when she was sent to Moore County to June 25 when she met her surgeon, Lovin said the support of her medical teams in Richmond and Moore counties and the love and encouragement from friends and family have been amazing.
“I went in for the surgery on July 11. It was fast. I had no clues prior to this,” she said. “I’ve never been sick and never had surgery before. My whole world has been turned upside down. And since this type of cancer can be genetic, it’s also turned my children’s lives upside down because now, they’ll have to always watch for it. I have three daughters and six granddaughters.
“The prognosis for me, it’s really, really good. I tested positive for HER2 (human epidermal growth factor receptor 2) which can cause more cancer. They found it and were able to remove the lump and the lymph nodes here on my left. I’d held it together until then. The guys who were prepping me to go in just went ahead and anesthetized me when they saw how upset I was. I don’t remember anything after that until I woke up. I went in, came out and went home.”
Scotty Honeycutt of Scotty’s Bait and Tackle in Lilesville held a catfish tournament at the Pee Dee River to raise money to help with Lovin’s initial medical expenses, she said. He supported her from the start.
But the story doesn’t end there. Recovery from the surgery is a four-week period when Lovin has to be extra careful not to injure her left arm. She was also told not to drive for the first three weeks. The next step, she said, involves six months of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
“I’ll have to have the first three sessions of chemo all in a short period of time,” she said. “The radiation, I don’t know. I’m going to see my oncologist Aug. 13 and we’ll find out about it then.”
Strike Out Cancer, an adult co-ed softball tournament taking place today at Parsons Field in Ellerbe, was organized to benefit Lovin. Hamlet Police Department Patrol Officer David Ferron, part of Lovin’s “softball family,” teamed up with his brother Kevin and his father — also named David — to plan the event as soon as they heard the news.
Ferron has known the family for “at least six years,” he said. They all met playing softball, and all consider the teams they play with and against to be part of their extended family. His mother, Sarah Ferron, has done a great deal to support this weekend’s benefit for one of their own.
“I did one last year for another friend,” Ferron said. “And as soon as I found out (about Lovin) I got together with my brother and Steve (Lovin’s husband) and we got it together. It took us about six weeks in all. The city of Ellerbe donated the field to us. It’s free to get in. We’ll have concessions, everything from hot dogs to nachos and barbecue. And candy and chips for the kids. Basically, all the softball families we ever played with are going to be there. It’s like a big ol’ family day for us, pretty much.”
Ferron said proceeds from team entry fees, extra home runs purchased for the games and money from concessions will go straight to Lovin to help her during her time of need.
“We are a family,” he said. “From March to November every year, we go from field to field and we play together.”
That family bond has spanned generations, Lovin said. She and her husband have been involved in the local softball community for more than 20 years and they’ve seen people who were children when they began grow up, have children of their own and raise them in the same tradition.
“I don’t think people realize how big this is going to be Saturday,” she said. “When we get together like this, it’s a very big event.”
Lovin said the next chapter is the chemotherapy and radiation treatments. In the meantime, she plans to return to her full time job Monday at the Moore County Workforce Center and Moore County Youth Center as part of contracted services through her employer, the Richmond County Community Support Center.
“They have all been very helpful,” Lovin said. “They’ve supported me the whole way, even with the time I’ve been out on leave. And even when I go back, if I get sick from the chemo, they said ‘Say the word and go ahead, no questions asked.’ I’m very thankful for them.”
Strike Out Cancer begins at 9 a.m. Saturday at Parsons Field in Ellerbe. For more information, call David Ferron at 910-995-7746 or Kevin Ferron at 910-995-6416.
Reach reporter Melonie Flomer at 910-817-2673 and follow her on Twitter @melonieflomer.