T. Graham Brown concert to benefit local cancer patientPublished 3:53pm Tuesday, September 24, 2013
At 37 years old, the last word Mandy Horton expected to hear uttered from her doctor’s mouth was the word cancer.
But on June 7 of this year, that’s exactly what she was told.
Horton, a wife and mother to three very active boys, said the news was devastating.
“I’d like to be able to say that I was optimistic from the very beginning – that I was positive and knew there was a purpose for this,” she said. “But the truth is, I wasn’t any of those things. I was angry and shocked. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me.”
Horton learned that the type of cancer attacking her body was triple negative breast cancer, one of four types of breast cancer and the only one that is not hormone-based.
“Since TNBC isn’t hormone-based, it can only be treated through chemo, radiation, and surgery,” Horton said.
“When I found out my options, I knew it was time to start fighting it.”
Even though Horton was shocked at the diagnosis, she knew breast cancer could be a possibility for her since she has a strong family history related to breast cancer.
“I’ve actually been getting yearly mammograms since I was 26 years old,” she said. “I knew the best way to prevent something like this was to take measures to catch it before it became a problem.”
But after 10 years of regular mammogram screenings, Horton faced a different kind of problem.
In October of 2012, she lost her job, which caused her to put off her yearly screening.
“I always had all my yearly doctors appointments and check-ups in October, but after I lost my job, I decided to put it off,” she said.
“I did this for several months and finally decided the week the boys got out of school that I had put it off long enough. I needed to get my mammogram.”
Horton said she set up her appointment, and because of her background in nursing, she knew almost immediately that something wasn’t right.
“When they took the film, I could just tell that they saw something there,” she said, “and sure enough, they confirmed it. I had breast cancer.”
After getting a local opinion, Horton said she went to Birmingham where a biopsy was performed on the tumor, which was determined to be a grade 3 tumor – the most aggressive kind.
“As upset as I was, I began to realize how lucky I had actually been to find the tumor when I did,” Horton said.
“Because of the type of tumor that it was, if I had just waited until this October when I normally have my mammogram and not felt the need to make up the one I missed this past October, the tumor would have metastasized.
“We caught it almost at the exact moment where it could be contained and not spread, and I began to realize how lucky I was and how much worse it could have been.”
Horton said the survival rate for her type of cancer is around 90 percent, but that number takes effect after the 3-5 year period when recurrence is feasible.
In the mean time, Horton said the next phase of her treatment was to move straight into taking chemo, something she said no amount of preparation can prepare you for.
“You hear about chemo treatments and you see other people go through it, but you just can’t imagine what it does to you until you actually experience it,” Horton said.
She said the hardest part has been the physical toll and the ensuing mental struggle it takes to just keep going each day.
But there are four men in her life who make that abundantly easier for her – her husband, Tommy, and her three boys: T.J., 21, Ethan, 11, and Colin, 6.
“I worry about my boys and what they have to see and go through while I fight this, but they have really been my heroes through all of this,” she said.
“They are the reason I keep fighting, even when I feel like quitting, and they have made hard things easier, like having no hair. Those things don’t matter to them and it makes it easier for me to deal with it when I see how they handle it.
“I was very angry about my diagnosis at first, but as the time has gone on, I have come to realize that if this was the wake up call I needed to see that the superficial things in life do not matter, then I’ll take it.
“I have realized what’s important in life – faith, family and friends. Anything beyond that is not worth worrying over.”
And for Horton, the amount of support she has received from her family and friends has been an overwhelming source of inspiration to her on her darkest days.
Having been out of work since October 2012 and with no hope of returning to work any time soon, the Hortons have found themselves facing the expensive battle against her breast cancer with only half of the income they were used to having.
Her family and friends knew the financial aspect of her fight for remission was a heavy burden for Horton and her family to bear, so the wheels began turning for a benefit concert to help pay some of the medical bills.
“The benefit idea was presented to me in early July and I was just so thankful,” she said. “I couldn’t believe so many people would want to help me.”
The benefit for Horton is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3, at 6:30 p.m. at the historic Roxy Theater in downtown Russellville. The event is sponsored by Modern Woodmen, Friends of the Roxy and by Horton’s family and friends.
Local musician Joseph Baldwin will open the show and hit country music artist T. Graham Brown will headline the event.
Tickets are $20 for reserved floor seats and $15 for general admission seats in the balcony. Tickets can be purchased at Abstract and Appraisal on Washington Avenue in Russellville or by calling 256-332-3270.
“I want to thank everyone who has had any part in planning or organizing this event and each person who plans to attend the benefit to support me,” Horton said.
“The support I’ve received through the ‘Prayers for Mandy Horton’ Facebook prayer page and through other avenues has just been overwhelming and I can’t thank everyone enough.
“I hope that my situation and what I am going through can ultimately serve as a wake-up call for women who do not believe that yearly mammograms are important.
“I want any attention I receive to bring awareness to the fact that mammograms save lives. No matter how ‘young’ you may think you are or how much you don’t believe you need a mammogram, I’m living proof that it’s important.”