[00:00:00] Adam Walker: From Susan G Komen, this is Real Pink, a podcast exploring real stories, struggles, and triumphs related to breast cancer. We’re taking the conversation from the doctor’s office to your living room.
After treatment for breast cancer ends, staying involved in the breast cancer cause will make a difference in your own life and can also benefit many other people diagnosed with breast cancer and their families, now and in the future. Today, as we gear up for Mother’s Day, we are joined by a mother/daughter duo – Mary Ellen & Emily Davis.
Mary Ellen was diagnosed in 2010 with Stage III Triple-Negative Breast Cancer when she was 44 years old. Her daughter, Emily, was a teenager when her mom was diagnosed and has dedicated her career to the oncology world. Together, they have been a Komen 3-Day top fundraising team and are now participating in Komen More than Pink Walks. Here today to share their story are Mary Ellen and Emily – welcome to the show!
I’m so excited to talk to both of you, Mary Ellen, let’s start with your breast cancer story for our listeners.
Uh, fill us in on your breast cancer diagnosis and what was going on in your life.
[00:01:14] Mary Ellen Davis: Okay. Sure. Well, thank you for having us, Adam. We appreciate it. Um, I guess I could start by May, 2010. Um, I was a nurse working in the hospital and I noticed a lump in my left breast and I proceeded to call my doctor the next day.
I told my husband about it. The next day I called my doctor and they sent me for mammogram. Um, I went for the mammogram and after the mammogram was done, the radiologist came in and said to me, um, things look a little suspicious here. I’m not sure what, what we have here. What’s going on. Um, he said, I think it’s just cystic and it should be fine.
But, um, you know, you, you might want to follow up again within like six months. And something just told me something didn’t feel right. I guess when I found the lump, initially, just something didn’t feel right. I said to my husband, this isn’t, you know, I just have this strange feeling. So, um, I had worked with a breast surgeon at the hospital for many.
And after the mammogram and after what the radiologists had said, I decided to call her. So I called her and I made an appointment for her office. I went to her office and it was actually, Emily was in eighth grade and just graduated from eighth grade and we were planning a trip to Bermuda. So we were, uh, getting ready to go on a cruise.
So I went in to see the service. Who was also a friend of mine, Dr. Beth, to pray. She was amazing. And she did a biopsy in the office. And as she did the biopsy, I looked at her and I could see that she was. She had this look on her face. And I said to her, Dr. Dupree, do we know what’s going on here? And she said, I won’t have any results for you until you come back from your vacation.
So go on your vacation and try to enjoy yourself, which is, you know, really hard to do. Uh, we were leaving for Bermuda the next day. So she did the biopsy. We went on the cruise, obviously on the cruise. I was concerned. I’m kind of a little withdrawn, you know, from my family, from my husband, from my daughter, it was, it was a great time, but I just felt, you know, preoccupied obviously.
Um, we got back on a Monday on a Sunday and then Monday morning at eight o’clock. I pulled up to work and my cell phone said Dr. Beth to pray at 8:00 AM. And she said, Mary Ellen, you’re not going to remember anything after what I tell you, you have breast cancer. She said, it’s a very aggressive form and we need to get moving on this right away.
You need to go in and get a port place tomorrow to start chemotherapy. So obviously I was shocked. Um, but yeah, that’s how the diagnosis went at the time.
[00:04:18] Adam Walker: Um, wow. That’s I mean, that’s. I mean, life-changing not moment. Right. Um, so Emily, what was it like for you when you found out that your mom was diagnosed and how did that impact you at that time?
[00:04:34] Emily Davis: I think my mom’s attitude when she was able to absorb that information, um, she spoke with my grandmother, her mom, as well as her sister and my dad and I. All of us wanted to just fight the goal was to push through this and having that mindset from the beginning, from both my mom who was going through it and all my family members, it really just allowed us to all focus on.
Let’s get mom through this. Let’s focus on. Beating this cancer. Let’s do what we need to do really no time for other emotions. And we were able to process this. You, you have your moments of sadness, of joy, of victory, etc. But the mindset and the goal was let’s beat this. Let’s fight through this one day at a time.
[00:05:33] Adam Walker: I mean, that seems like a great way to approach it, you know, as it as a family, um, So let’s talk about, you know, your treatment and what that was like for, for you, Mary Ellen, and then also for the family. So Marion, I’d love to hear kind of what was your treatment and then Emily, I’d love to hear kind of, what was it like for you being with your mom as she went through that treatment?
[00:05:56] Mary Ellen Davis: Sure. So because it was such an aggressive cancer, like I said, the port needed to be placed the next day. So I went into the hospital and had the port placed. And the day after that I had to start intense chemotherapy. Um, it was expected that I do eight rounds of chemotherapy. I met with a medical oncologist.
So between my medical oncologist and my, um, breast surgeon, they worked together for a plan for me. I was treated at a community based. And the chemo started right away, pretty much right away. Um, I guess the hardest part for me is I had no control of what was, what was going on over my body. And I’m kind of a control freak, I would say.
So, um, when you’re leaving everything up to someone else and you have no control, you know, um, you just fight through it. I mean, you just really have to fight through it. Um, unfortunately, every round of chemotherapy, I was very, very, very sick. Chemo was very difficult for my body. Um, I just, I had reactions.
I was put in the hospital during each, uh, chemotherapy rounds. I was telling the doctor that does anybody react to chemo this way? And he said, you know, some people do some people don’t, some people go through it fine, but others, you know, my body was just not doing what it was supposed to be doing, but I was fighting.
So, you know, the rounds were tough of chemo. I know you spent a lot of time with me, you know, there was one, one time I didn’t get out of bed for like eight days. You know, literally there were eight days that I had to spend in bed in between treatments. So that was the first part of the treatment. Um, we had to actually with the hospitalizations that I had had, I was in a cardiac unit.
I had some GI problems with it. Um, they had to actually. Shortening the length of time for the chemotherapy was supposed to be eight full rounds, but we got to six. And by that time, the medical oncologist had seen that I was having so many complications that we just moved up the surgery. So, um, the chemo started in June of 2010.
We ended in November and I had my bilateral mastectomy with reconstructive surgery in November.
[00:08:24] Adam Walker: Wow. And Emily, I mean, what was it like for you, you know, being at your mom’s side through all of that?
[00:08:31] Emily Davis: My mom is a very energetic, outgoing, bubbly person. And when you see someone who’s always go, go, go nonstop bedridden for days.
It’s it’s a total shock. The chemotherapy sucked the energy out of my mom. So that w that was just very alarming. You could, you could tell that this. Really kicking her bike. So that was, that was difficult to process. I had section amazing support system. I just started high school at the time and everyone at my school, I was a part of a cheerleading squad.
They just really took me under their wings. There was so many other mothers that were supportive of my mom, but most importantly, supportive of me either, um, helping with meals or just driving me to practices. So it, it ultimately was like just a community effort to support my mom. And at the time you could tell how many people cared about my mom, because everyone was stepping up and.
What can I do for you? What can we do for Emily? What can we do for art? So I don’t think without the support system that we had, things would have been the same if it really took a village to get through this. And, um, it was a lot, but we made it through and just stronger on the other hand. Wow. That’s
[00:10:00] Adam Walker: fantastic.
And I love that you had that kind of support and were even able to accept that, you know, just accepting the support is such a difficult task sometimes. So, so let’s talk about what you do now. I understand you both work in the oncology field. Uh, I would imagine Emily that your mother’s situation probably contributed to that.
And I’d love to hear more about that. What do each of you do and how do you give back?
[00:10:26] Mary Ellen Davis: So I’m a community oncology nurse liaison for Alliance cancer specialists. Um, I work for a community oncology based practice. We have, uh, 35 medical oncologists and we have 14 practices. They’re private practices, but we treat, um, cancer patients every day, um, through.
Chemotherapy radiation, medical oncology. And I’m actually the liaison that actually goes out to kind of bring the awareness of the type of care that we give the expert care that we give. Um, I work for a great group of physicians that, you know, when I interviewed for the position I was at the hospital initially, and then after all this happened, Um, I, I really wanted to give back.
I wanted to be involved in some one way or another. And when I met with these physicians and they heard my story and basically I’m the one going out there, you know, in the community to give resources to folks, to, you know, I’ve lived it. So I feel like if I could pay it forward and help others, you know, it really means a lot.
So to me, it’s a true mission every day to be out there and be able to. Find the people that need the treatment, get them where they need to go give them the expert physicians. And it’s just a great feeling. It really is.
[00:11:51] Adam Walker: Well that’s great. And Emily, what are you doing? The oncology.
[00:11:55] Emily Davis: So, like my mom said it’s really a life transforming situation and being so young, I knew I wanted to direct my career towards healthcare.
So I went to school for social work. Um, I worked at cancer treatment centers of America for about two years. And now I work with they auto hospice and we frequently support patients that are going through, um, treatment oncology that might need hospice care or palliative care. So it all just really intertwines.
Um, when I had my time. Cancer treatment centers of America. I was a patient advocate and just being able to talk to families, to patients and say, listen, I was on the caregiver side of this and even children. I was 14 at the time. So I, I understand how difficult this can be. Just having that personal real life connection allows you to go so much further with your conversations, your advocacy, and how you treat patients and their families.
So it’s really just such an amazing thing now to have that connection and to use that experience for good.
[00:13:08] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s fantastic. I love that. And so now I understand in addition to using your careers to give back. You’re also top fundraisers for Susan G Komen. So let’s talk about being a, a top three day fundraising team.
Tell our listeners about the three days pink bubble for those that have never experienced it.
[00:13:29] Mary Ellen Davis: So in 2010, um, once we, once we got through all of this, we decided that we wanted to be a part of the country. The Komen world. So how could, what could we do? So I actually joined a breast cancer survivor group, and this is a group of over 500 women now that are breast cancer survivors locally.
Um, and then we meet here in Bucks County, um, once. And, um, they form a team every year. So we’ve got involved with the team. We formed our own team with survivors. There were physicians on our team. We had local, um, constituents that joined us that were friends of ours. Um, we did a huge fundraiser with family and friends.
Um, I think we raised $60,000 that year, $60,000 as a team. Yeah. And it was so great because everybody came out. We did. You know, we had fundraising events and B for beers and dinners and. It was just great. And the three day was amazing, you know, it was 60 miles and I never thought I could do something like that.
But I think just the inspiration that keeps you going is being around those survivors and that emotion and you yourself, get it going through it. And people supporting you. I mean, we have such a great time. It was, it was just so, you know, Komen does so much and we really wanted to give back. It was amazing.
It was really fun.
[00:15:04] Emily Davis: There’s definitely no atmosphere, quite like everyone at the three-day walk, as well as the other walks that come and does just being around such a positive environment of people that are passionate and hopeful and grateful for the future of beating breast cancer. It’s so amazing to be around.
And it’s just a really surreal experience.
[00:15:30] Adam Walker: Wow. That’s fantastic. And so I understand that you’ve now transitioned to more than pink walks. Why do you think it’s so important to fundraise and to take part in events like.
[00:15:41] Mary Ellen Davis: Well, I think with Cummins mission, you know, their mission is to save lives by meeting the most critical needs in the community and investing in, you know, research and breakthrough things that prevent and cure breast cancer.
So, you know, the whole, the vision is a world without breast cancer. And I think, um, you know, when you fundraise your helping to support that within the community, and that’s why we really. We’re doing what we’re doing. Right.
[00:16:11] Emily Davis: And that personal experience, like so many people have been touched by breast cancer.
One in eight women and men as well can be diagnosed with breast cancer. So I think everyone has some type of connection, whether they know a friend, a sister, a mother, whoever it may be, um, being able to. Take that and say, okay, let’s do something about it. Let’s raise money, let’s try and help with this research.
We want a cure. We want more clinical trials. We want to be able to get more people through this disease. Um, that’s really what is key with fundraising? Keeping that in the back of your mind.
[00:16:54] Adam Walker: That’s right. That is so important. Uh, you’ve been a part of a great fundraising effort, big fundraising team. Do you have any fundraising tips for our listeners that may want to be involved in, in some form of.
[00:17:07] Mary Ellen Davis: Yeah, you do all the digital media stuff,
[00:17:09] Emily Davis: which I love, um, social media, and I can, I think it can be really used as a power to get out and connect with people that might not be local reaching out to people all over the U S is not just the U S nationally. And. Luckily with our world post COVID-19, we’ve all become a little more savvy with technology and being able to do zoom calls or team meetings or whatever it may be.
So just really using that as a resource to connect with others. And I think the more personal you get with your story, that’s really the key to fundraising. Like I know my mom can talk a little bit about. What we did when we had our beef and beers are our events, or even just putting a table outside at a community event and asking for donations, when you share your story, people can connect to that.
And that is what allows them to want to give.
[00:18:13] Mary Ellen Davis: Yeah, like Emily said, everybody’s affected. And I think if everybody knows something. That has something to do with breast cancer. I’m sure everyone knows someone. And we just had two more cousins that were diagnosed. So, and I mean, you know, we reached out to them too, but the personal story is the key.
I think, I think once we all can relate and there’s a personal story involved then that, you know, entices people to be more of a part of it.
[00:18:41] Adam Walker: I mean, I love that. Like, I think by sharing your personal story, it allows people to empathize and when people can empathize with you, then they can say, okay, I want to give to this.
This is an important cause that makes an impact in the world. Right. And that’s just so, so important. Um, so, so tell me about, you know, the two of you, I mean kind of being a team, you know, going through this experience together, you know, both then and now what does that mean?
[00:19:09] Emily Davis: I mean for me personally, I’m an only child, so I’ve always been super close with my parents and I.
I feel like my mom is my best friend. Um, I don’t say it enough, but we are both connected on our career paths. We’re connected on our passions. I mean, like we said, we went through a life-changing experience, so it really just makes you want to give back to the community and it makes you want to help others.
So, being together as a team, obviously there’s more power in numbers when you’re working together and you have a passion and you have a mission, it just makes things more fun, more powerful, and, um, really sets a positive ripple effect.
[00:20:01] Mary Ellen Davis: Yeah, I’m so proud of her, you know, um, what she, how she’s supported me as well as how, what she’s doing in the community as well.
So, and I have to mention my mother, who’s 80, 80 years old. She’s actually going to be at the walk with us too. She was a, a huge support for me the whole time that I was going through a treatment and she’s going to be with us. So, I mean, we have three generations, you know, that’s really supporting each other and.
Going through it together.
[00:20:29] Emily Davis: Yes. She’s our, she’s our third in our little trio and we all look exactly alike, so
[00:20:36] Adam Walker: that’s great. That’s great. I love that. I love that. Well, she sounds amazing. Well, this has been so great. Your story is so encouraging. You know, I love the work that you’re doing in the community and really making it impact for so many people.
So, uh, last question then, uh, do you have any final advice you’d like to share with our listeners?
[00:20:58] Emily Davis: Just the education of cancer screenings is so important. I obviously was exposed to it at such a young age. And although it’s a very difficult conversation because it affects so many people and cancer is typically not something you want to talk about at the dinner table. It’s crucial for people to know that it cancer does not discriminate.
It affects men, women. Um, all ages and people just need to be aware of the signs. Um, and I think that’s really an important message for everyone to know.
[00:21:32] Mary Ellen Davis: Yeah. And you know, like Emily said, know the signs, know your own body, you know, like if you, if you get a feeling that something isn’t right. Go to a doctor and go get checked out.
I mean, you know, my physician still tells me this to this day, you know, we’re here, we are 12 years later and she says, you know what? You saved your own life because not everybody follows through with the things that they need to follow through with. And I just think, thank God every day that I’m on this earth and that, you know, because of what I did and the support I had.
[00:22:08] Adam Walker: Well, Mary Ellen, Emily, you’re an inspiration. I can’t thank you enough for the impact that you’re making for the support, the F for Komen, and just so many families out there. Thank you for the work that you’re doing. And thank you for joining us on the show today.
[00:22:21] Mary Ellen Davis: Yes. Thanks. Thanks. We appreciate it.
[00:22:28] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit RealPink.com. For more on breast cancer, visit Komen.org. Make sure to check out at Susan G Komen on social media. I’m your host, Adam, you can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, AdamJWalker.com