This the fourth and final story about breast cancer survivors published during Breast Cancer Awareness month.
ANDERSON — Anderson native Vickie Nave, 62, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1994 at the age of 43.
"A small lump was found when I went for my mammogram," said Nave. "After a biopsy, I was told that I had Stage I of an invasive type of breast cancer and had three options. I could wait and see if there were any changes, I could have a lumpectomy or I could have a mastectomy."
"My mom died of cancer," said the divorced mother of three. "When I heard there was a 99% chance of survival with the mastectomy, I immediately decided that was what I wanted to do."
Nave's doctor suggested she go home and talk to her family before making a decision, but Nave said that she felt like it was her body and her decision. "I felt at peace with my decision and had the mastectomy a week later. I had one round of radiation following my surgery and took Tamoxifen for five years."
A year after her mastectomy, Nave decided to have reconstructive surgery after hearing about a procedure called Tram Flap from a friend. "I found out they could use my own tissue from my abdomen to form the new breast. It was done by a plastic surgeon in Muncie," said Nave. "I saw the exact procedure done on the Discovery Channel without knowing it was even going to be shown and felt it was God's way of letting me know I was doing the right thing."
Nave is an active member of Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church and is involved with Project Hope as a mentor for at risk children. "I started out as a volunteer at the jail in the 1990's and now I am a certified Chaplin through the Madison County Sheriff's Department," said Nave. "I've always had a heart for children and help with them at church as well. Most of them just want to be loved and shown that you care."
An avid bowler before her cancer and after, Nave has bowled on a weekly league and for a while bowled on two a week. She was inducted into the Bowling Hall of Fame in 2002. "I just love bowling," said Nave. "As soon as I was able to get back out there, I began bowling again. I got started by going after work with some friends and really enjoyed it."
At the entrance to her home, there is a sign warning that "this home is protected by angels." Nave has a huge collection of all kinds of angels surrounding her fireplace and around her living room. "I don't remember how I got started collecting them. I would get them for gifts and next thing I knew, I was surrounded by angels."
Nave credits family, faith and bowling as key factors in helping her cope with the her successful battle with breast cancer. She also felt God had prepared her for each step along the way.
Nave's advice for other women is "get your annual mammogram." "The earlier cancer is detected, the higher the rate of survival. We have to be proactive and take care of our own bodies."
"We are not just survivors, we are thrivers," said Nave. "We need to talk to each other about breast cancer, our treatments and experiences."
"Be supportive," said Nave of friends that have been diagnosed with breast cancer. "Let them know you're there for them. If they need to cry, let them know it''s all right. They may not want to talk about it, but there's no harm in asking. Let them know they don't have to go through it alone."
"Life is precious," added Nave. "I've learned to take every day, every second and appreciate it. I dwell on living each day that God gives me to the fullest because it's a gift. It's not really about me. It's about the God that I glorify. I believe I'm here for a reason and that is to help someone else. It's about giving back and living life to the fullest. As long as I have breath in me, that's what I intend to do. I want to encourage others. We need each other and need to be encouragers. It doesn't cost anything but a little bit of time to say hello or to visit someone and let them know that you care."
"It is so amazing how far cancer treatments have come," said Nave. "One day they are going to find a cure. I just know it."