[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.
Welcome to Real Pink. So today we’ve got a little bit different format for you. Today I get the privilege of interviewing and chatting with an old friend of mine, Stacey Lucas from the Children’s Museum of Atlanta and why this is different is that I’m going to be having a conversation that I think many of you have had and many of you will have.
And so what prompted this conversation is I was on social media and Stacey posted something about a mastectomy and I was surprised, like I had no idea that she had any health issues of any kind at all. And so I reached out to her to have a conversation about that and what you are about to listen to is that conversation for the first time. So, with that said, Stacey, why don’t you start off, just tell us your name, who you are, what you do, what you’re about, where you’re at?
[00:01:08] Stacey Lucas: Sure. Hi. Thank you, Adam, for speaking with me today. My name is Stacey Lucas. I am the Director of Advancement and Marketing for the Children’s Museum of Atlanta. I have been there for 10 years. I am a mom. I have an almost 21 year old and a 17 year old. And I live in Atlanta, Georgia with my husband and dogs and cats and rats and snakes, actually.
[00:01:34] Adam Walker: All the things. Oh, man. So, I think I’ve probably known you for about 10 years. I’ve been involved with the Children’s Museum on various committees and advisory committee and marketing committee for probably about 10 years. And so, I was very surprised when I saw your post. So let me start the conversation with this. I think this is important. So a lot of people that I’ve interviewed on the show that are, would call themselves survivors and thrivers; they a lot of times they have ground rules about like what, “I don’t want you to give me any medical advice Adam, or I do want you to send me weird, funny names, Adam.”
So, so I want to start by asking that of you, do you have any ground rules for how we should think about, talk through this conversation?
[00:02:13] Stacey Lucas: Well, weird, funny memes for sure. So yes, thank you. You may already do that. No, I don’t have any ground rules.We’ll talk about, we’ll talk about my journey, but No.
[00:02:27] Adam Walker: And that’s fine.
And a lot of people don’t, but I just, I’ve wanted to, I wanted to be sure first so that, so I’m not stubborn again. So, all right, so then let’s start with your journey. So I, saw the post. Was surprised. So what, tell me all the things that led up to that post.
[00:02:45] Stacey Lucas: So I’ve just always been one of those women that have dense breasts, being called back for diagnostics and ultrasounds basically, as long as I can remember.
In December of 2020, I, it was a little more suspicious and so I had to go back in 6 weeks, went back in January of 2021. They found a calcification. Actually, it was January 6, 2021, where there were some other things going on in the world that day, but I was getting my biopsy and that evening that received a call from my doctor is very quick that the, the biopsy came back. Positive malignant, I had stage 0, which I was not even aware there was a stage 0 of D.C.I.S. And we took it from there. So it was very much during that COVID period where, the world wasn’t quite opened up yet. I was still working remotely from home. And I think that’s when I posted the latest one it’s been 2 years now, my social media posts.
It’s really the first time I’ve really posted about it. A lot of people were surprised because I think we were all just living in that bubble still at that time. And, and I chose at that time not to put it on social media and so a lot of people are surprised that I had a diagnosis. So basically, I had a great team at Piedmont hospital.
I worked with Dr. Deal over at Atlanta breast care, decided that because of my history and because there were the MRI showed some other calcifications that may or may not have been malignant for me. I just made the choice to have a double mastectomy, and I had Dr. John Simbas was my reconstruction surgeon, my plastic surgeon, and it was a great team.
And it was a big surgery, but ultimately, I have no regrets. Yeah.
[00:05:06] Adam Walker: Oh, that’s great. I love to hear that. So what’s the reaction been like? You said people have been surprised. Have they reached out to you? Did you get a lot of, greeting cards, what’s the reaction been like?
[00:05:21] Stacey Lucas: When I say I was in COVID, I had my inner circle, right?
So, during that time, I had my inner circle. So I felt like I had a lot of love around me. especially the neighborhood moms, the moms that I was seeing taking the dogs on walks and, being out with the kids, they really rallied for me. And of course, working at the Children’s Museum, they’re the best people ever.
So, my team was amazing. Jane Turner was the executive director at the time. She was amazing and they really allowed me the support and the space to have the surgery and recover, and come back at my own pace. So my first surgery was in February of 2021. That was the double mastectomy. And then I had reconstruction in July of 2021.
[00:06:18] Adam Walker: And you said like that, you, chose not to put it on social media. Do you mind just, I’m just curious, like what went into that decision? Was it just a gut reaction or what were you thinking?
[00:06:31] Stacey Lucas: I feel like at that, especially at that moment in time, being in covid, I was trying to distance myself from social media. I think in a lot of ways, like I said, I found out on January 21st. the world was upside down for me personall,. so I was trying to stay off of social media. I also had a very small circle of friends who were diagnosed during Covid. One had a double mastectomy and radiation; hers was a little more advanced. Two had lumpectomies and radiation. They were stage one and they didn’t post it on social media, and so, I don’t know, I just felt like, “You know what? This is something I have my circle. I have my people, the people I know.” And I just didn’t want to monitor that part of it.
[00:07:31] Adam Walker: No, it’s like a whole extra job.
[00:07:34] Stacey Lucas: And I know people would have reached out with support and love. And again, I felt like the people in my inner circle knew and they were loving on me more than ever. And so I just, I felt like social media would just be one more thing I would feel obligated to check and reply to.
[00:07:53] Adam Walker: Yeah. Well, and I’ll tell you too, and, I’ll say this a bit selfishly, like I saw your post. And I’ve been disengaged from social media for years, just got Covid and it was out, and I was like, “Oh, no, did I not see a previous post? Did I miss something?” And that, it’s a very kind of selfish, but I was selfishly concerned about it because I wanted to be supportive.
So, I’m at least I did it, and I’m glad to hear that. So, where are you at now, health wise? And is there anything, that you need, any support you need, any, anything I can do to be helpful to you?
[00:08:33] Stacey Lucas: Oh, you’re sweet, and thank you for all the work you do. This podcast is amazing, and important to talk about it. One of the things that I would like to do is de-stigmatize , mastectomies, right? That’s not really an answer to your question, but just, as I move forward, there’s lots of bad information on the internet about mastectomies and what you’re able to do and not able to do afterwards.
So I do appreciate this conversation. But no, right now, I’ve been 2 years clear. it was really it was in my milk duct. So it had not even expanded out in a spread out of that. It was super easy if it wasn’t for the placement of the cancer, or the fact that I had other calcifications, which, by the way, turned out to all be benign once they did the pathology on both breast.
I would have just probably had a lumpectomy and maybe some radiation, but the surgery was big. It was successful. It was. It’s amazing what they can do. Dr. Simbas and Dr. Deal, not to get too personal, but, there’s no scarring, you wouldn’t even know that I had one it was, that’s a big thing when you get a double mastectomy, right? And it depends, right? Whether I’m going to get personal, but whether you have a nipple-sparing double mastectomy or not. The scarring, but I was very fortunate, cosmetically. I’m super happy with the results and physically, I feel great. I am clear. The only kind of annoying thing is that every time I go to a doctor, they see that, I had cancer and they, no matter what is wrong, I feel like they want to check me for everything because I have that C next to my name. But otherwise, that is a small annoyance. It’s oh, let’s biopsy that. Let’s biopsy that. Can’t be too safe, which I totally agree. Early diagnosis saved me, saves lots of women. This whole experience has really just made me appreciate where my, I shouldn’t say appreciate my privilege, but recognize my privilege and appreciate healthcare and my circumstances, which is, talk about selfish, right?
But, it did bring into light that I’m, I came at this diagnosis from a very privileged space, and I’m grateful for that. It also made me acutely aware of all the women who don’t have that privilege and moving forward, what can I do to help. Whether that’s supporting organizations that provide free mammograms and health services, but I’ve really in the last, I’d say, year started to think, as I move through life, what can I do to alleviate that for, other women who maybe aren’t in the same position as I am?
[00:11:50] Adam Walker: Well, if you’re looking for volunteer opportunities, I know a few people, some really good work. Really, good work. Okay, so, so it’s probably just two more questions. How has this experience affected, like how you think about your health or how you think about the health of your family?
[00:12:06] Stacey Lucas: I’ve always been one of those people that run to the doctor. I’m not a hypochondriac, but I’m not afraid to go to the doctor and be like, “This is weird.” So I think for me, I ran before the surgery, I was exercised. Getting back to that has been very important to me, building my strength. I recently joined a gym , and am running again and back to, back to pretty much where I was before the surgery, I think if whenever you go through a cancer diagnosis, you realize that we only have so much time on this planet, right? No matter what, whether even if it’s I never felt like my life was, was at stake or, I wasn’t there. Thank goodness. But it makes you realize “Oh crap.” Anyone, any of us can wake up and have a heart attack or have cancer or anything. So I think it’s been, we’re eating healthier. We’re not eating red meat nearly as much as we used to. as far as life changes and making sure that people exercise, I’ve become a little bit of the. The annoying mom that’s like, all right, everybody out of the house, everyone out of the house. We have to walk the dog.
Let’s go to the park. Let’s go on a hike. but, I think that would be, we just don’t, you’re not sitting in front of the computer. Let’s go. Let’s go for your health and because, you only get one shot at this spin around the world. So , why sit around and not take advantage of everything?
It made me very grateful that the whole experience just made me grateful, for friends, grateful for abilities, family that live in a great city where, we have a lot of nature and access. So, yeah.
[00:14:09] Adam Walker: I love it. I love it. Okay. last question. do you have any advice for any of our listeners today?
[00:14:19] Stacey Lucas: Gosh, everyone’s journey is so different, right? And everyone’s experience is so different. I leaned on my doctors and their advice. I stayed off the internet. So here’s a story when I decided to get the double mastectomy. I called one of the nurses at Dr. Simba’s office and I was just asking all these questions, all these things I had seen on the Internet. and they were, she’s like, “No, that’s not the way it happened. That’s not, that she was just feeding me correct information, medical information. “I saw this and I saw this,” and she finally stopped and said, “Mrs. Lucas, from now on, I’m your internet.
[00:15:05] Adam Walker: I love that. I love that.
[00:15:07] Stacey Lucas: She goes, do not Google. I am the internet. If you have a question, call me. So I would say that would be probably my biggest takeaway. Do not depend on what the internet tells you your experience is going to be, or your journey is going to be. Talk to the people who actually are in it, living it. Know your particular situation and can guide you, because the Internet is full of scary things.
[00:15:41] Adam Walker: That’s right. That’s right. It is. It is so true. And that’s advice that’s been given on the show so many times. And, and it’s so important. So, Stacey, listen, thank you for joining us on the show today for being real and authentic and vulnerable. Thank you just for the work that we’ve done together for 10 years at the Children’s Museum. I thoroughly enjoy getting to work with you and your team. It’s one of my very favorite things. Just, I really, genuinely appreciate it.
[00:16:08] Stacey Lucas: We appreciate you still hanging with us after 10 years, you, your expertise and, amazing attitude has, just been a shining part of my career. So thank you.
[00:16:25] Adam Walker: Thanks for listening to Real Pink, a weekly podcast by Susan G Komen. For more episodes, visit realpink.komen.org and for more on breast cancer, visit komen.org. Make sure to check out @SusanGKomen on social media. I’m your host, Adam. You can find me on Twitter @AJWalker or on my blog, adamjwalker.com.