Local woman leans on support system, faith through breast cancer diagnosis
At 42 years old, Maci Willis found herself facing the challenge of a lifetime when she was diagnosed with Triple Negative breast cancer in early August.
Triple Negative breast cancer, classified as an Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, is not only the most common type of breast cancer but also one of the most aggressive. Willis’s cancer is a rare subtype, making up only 10-20% of breast cancer cases. This form of the disease is not fueled by hormones or the HER protein, adding an extra layer of complexity to her battle.
She discovered a lump the size of a grape in July, but because she had no history of breast cancer in her family, she was not immediately alarmed.
“This was mistake number one,” Willis said. “Always call your doctor immediately if you notice any kind of lump. They will get you in sooner and with cancer time is of the essence.
“Having lost my Dad to lung cancer just a year prior and still deep in the grieving process from that, I was just broken. I felt like this could not possibly be happening to my family again,” she said.
As the shock of the diagnosis began to fade, Willis said she found solace in her faith. She believes that her cancer journey is not just a physical battle but also a spiritual one.
Willis said her support system has played a vital role in her journey. Her husband and family have provided unwavering support, and her community in Hartselle, rallied around her from the very beginning. Friends offered prayers, encouraging texts, meals, donations and transportation.
“My husband and family have been a constant support, and I am blessed by them every day,” she said. “Secondly, I can’t even begin to describe how amazing this community has been. From the very start, I knew I was called to take this journey public and use it as my testimony.
Given the aggressive nature of Triple Negative breast cancer, her treatment plan includes 22 rounds of chemotherapy with immunotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiation therapy.
At press time, Willis had undergone three rounds of chemotherapy, managing the side effects such as heartburn and fatigue well.
“I am thankful for this cancer because it has given me a purpose in life, and I see God’s plan so clearly now,” she said. “A veil was lifted from my eyes the day I heard that horrible word and I experienced an immediate perspective shift. I read a quote from another breast cancer fighter that said ‘You can either have cancer, or cancer can have you’ and I decided then and there it was not going to have me.’