Staying Strong

Breast Cancer Awareness: Rebekka Taylor

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“I did a self-breast exam, actually it was the first time I have ever done one,” said Rebekka Taylor. “I just knew that something wasn’t right.” 

This is how Taylor, a teacher at Laurence Manning Academy and a mother to three boys, initially found out that something was wrong. She tried to ignore it for a while, due to her young age. 

“I am only 38, I will be 39 on October fifteenth and it is kinda strange because my eleven-year-old son was picking on me about being old,” said Taylor. “I remember thinking: ‘Gosh, I’ll need to get a mammogram in another year.” 

This is when she began a self-check and felt something she thought shouldn’t be there. At the time, however, she brushed it off out of fear. 

“I knew something wasn’t right, but I just put it in the back of my mind and kept thinking that I would make an appointment and get it taken care of,” said Taylor. “I never did make that appointment, and then a month passed.” 

Taylor is a full-time teacher at Laurence Manning Academy. Add an already busy job with the national chaos caused by the COVID pandemic, and Taylor found a reason to keep the appointment on the back burner. Soon she found a reason that worried her. 

“It just kind of got away from me, but the next month the lump I initially had felt was bigger and began to be painful,” said Taylor. “As women, I feel that we tend to put ourselves second and everyone else first, husbands, children, careers, but we can’t make lunches for everyone if we don’t take care of ourselves.”

Taylor took to the internet and found an entire spectrum of answers for the questions she had, ranging from firm to nonchalant.

“I began to google and convinced myself on Saturday that I was in fact dying,” said Taylor. “However, the next day I was still googling and found an article that I really liked. It stated that if the lump hurts than it is not cancer, so I held on to that.”

This calmness didn’t hold for long, and Taylor soon got in contact with a close friend to ask for advice. A friend that turned out to have just the right solution.

“One of my friends had recently changed jobs, unknown to me, and had begun working with a breast cancer specialist,” said Taylor. 

Taylor called that friend and asked where she should go. Her friend’s response? “Come and see me.”

“I am so grateful that I already knew someone at the office and felt comfortable,” said Taylor. “The following Friday I went for my appointment and they were very suspicious so they performed many tests and labs.” 

Four days later on Tuesday, the doctors confirmed that Taylor had breast cancer that had metastasized and spread into her lymph nodes and Thyroid.

“The way the surgeon explained the spread of the cancer is that the cancer basically got on the interstate but has not left the county,” joked Taylor. 

Things then moved at a rapid pace for Taylor and her family. In the course of three weeks, a chemotherapy port was placed. The port was originally supposed to be placed on the left side of Taylor’s chest but the veins were too small and the port had to be placed on the right side, where the cancer is as well.

Monday, Oct 5, Taylor met with her oncologist Dr. James Smith at McLeod Health in Florence. Dr. Smith has designed a treatment plan for Taylor that includes a “cocktail” of four different medications that she will be given during her chemotherapy. 

Chemotherapy will be one day a week every three weeks with a minimum of six rounds which will last well into January. The treatment days will last all day from 8 am until 5 or 6 pm. At some point, Taylor will have to undergo a single or double mastectomy. The details of the operation will be handled in the future after the chemotherapy has had a chance to shrink the cancer.

“Breast cancer does not run in my family,” said Taylor. “However, Brain cancer lung cancer, thyroid, and liver cancer do. I am the first in my family to have breast cancer.”

Throughout this, Taylor has relied on a support system built on the foundation of her family.

“My husband has been absolutely wonderful,” said Taylor. “When we explained to the kids what was going on, my six-year-old was very concerned with my hair falling out. My husband immediately said ‘That is when we are going to celebrate.”

The celebration will be a “Bald Party,” as Taylor describes it.

“He told our children that when mommy loses her hair, that means the medicine is working,” said Taylor. “And that means that it is getting rid of all the good and the bad so that I can be rebuilt and come back even better.”

Taylor also mentioned the support that her husband’s work has given, including days off and a pizza sent to their house for the children. One of the biggest pillars that Taylor leans on is the Laurence Manning staff and student body, mostly her class. 

“I came into school the other day and they were all wearing pink,” said Taylor. “I have never felt so loved and cared for than I did that day.”

Although Breast Cancer Awareness month is the month of October Taylor’s fight will extend far beyond one month of pink ribbons. Taylor will be joining us as a columnist and documenting her battle with cancer in The Manning Times and on Manning Live. We encourage our readers to join along as we go on this journey with Taylor by responding to her columns with cards and letters that may be mailed to The Manning Times P.O. Box 190 Manning, SC, or emailed to us at manningsctimes@gmail.com. There is a saying that a person’s healing depends greatly on their attitude, and if that is true, then it is safe to say Rebekka Taylor has already won her battle with cancer.

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