A Year Later: Norma Curley’s Breast Cancer Battle

Last year, Norma Curley, age 75 of Cornelia, received news that no woman wants to hear. “You have breast cancer.”  Due to a family history of the disease, Norma has always been vigilant about getting her annual mammograms.  Her mother and her paternal grandmother were breast cancer survivors and her mom’s sister died from the disease.  According to the American Cancer Society, one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime.

Norma had her annual mammogram at Habersham Medical Center annually until 1999 when her first suspicious lump was found.  Thankfully, it turned out to be benign, but she was transferred to a breast cancer specialist in Atlanta for follow-up care. Last October, her annual mammogram and ultrasound spotted a very small tumor that turned out to be breast cancer.  She had a lumpectomy and lymph node biopsy followed by many months of radiation treatments.

A registered nurse at Habersham Medical Center, it was hard for Norma to be the patient. “I’m used to being the strong one and the caregiver - not being on the receiving end,” she admits. “It was a scary diagnosis, but I was blessed to have strong support from my family, coworkers and her church, Cornelia First Baptist. 

Norma’s faith is very strong, and she encourages women to get treatment as soon as possible. “If you suspect a suspicious breast lump, do not ignore or deny it. You need proper follow-through and expert advice.”  Having been a nurse for more than 50 years, Norma has seen firsthand the many advancements in diagnostic technology. “My tumor was very small, and it may not have been detected by imaging devices many years ago. Even lab technology today is much better than it was years ago, and there is so much more that can be done when cancer is detected early.”

One memory that will always stand out in her mind about her breast cancer journey was during a doctor’s visit.  While sitting in the waiting area, she looked around the room at all of the women nervously waiting to be seen. Some had no hair, some were wearing wigs, while others didn’t look sick at all.  Then, her eyes noticed a young woman sitting in a chair with a diaper bag by her feet and a newborn baby cradled in her arms.  She was a new mom and a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. “I continue to think of that young lady often and pray for her. I’m a lot more attentive to the struggles of others, than ever before, after going through my own health scare.”

Norma also fondly recalls a recent Facebook post that really touched her heart. It included a beautiful photo of a mom and her daughter. The daughter had posted the picture with a comment, “Please tell my mom that it is ok to not wear her hot wing in the summer.”
“At that moment, I realized that a bald head is a badge of honor,” says Norma.  Whether cancer patients lose their hair or not or chose to wear a wig or not, the courage they display shows they are going through a battle and are determined to win the fight.  Your hair is a small thing to loose when you have everything else to gain.

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Women over the age of 40 and those with a family history of the disease are reminded to schedule their annual mammograms.  All women are encouraged to have an annual clinical breast exam by a health care professional and conduct monthly self-checks.