Magnolia “Jackie” Parrish, of Vacaville, was raised to be an independent thinker.
As one of 10 children growing up on an Arkansas farm, she was taught how to cook and sew and take care of the house by her mother, and learned to hunt, fish and chop wood with her father.
“They wanted us to be self-sufficient and strong,” she explained.
So it probably didn’t surprise those who know her best that she reached a definitive decision on treatment not long after she learned she had breast cancer.
“I told them to take my breast,” said the retired surgical nurse matter-of-factly. “They served me well. They fed my children. But I don’t need them to look gorgeous.”
The diagnosis was unexpected. She’d gone in for a mammogram, and had not seen any sign of a lump, despite frequent self-exams.
But “something” had turned up, and a biopsy confirmed it.
She knew all about cancer. She had seen various forms of the disease kill her mother, father, a sister and a brother.
“My only thought was, ‘how could I deal with it?’ I understood the illness that comes with chemo and radiation and the pain. I’d rather just take the breast off and go from there,” she recalled.
Her doctor urged her to think it over, or at least talk about it.
“I asked him, ‘Do you know what I want? Give me a hug and then do the surgery as fast as you can.’ And that’s what he did.”
Three years later, she’s had no recurrence, and no regrets. She knows the path she chose is not for everyone.
“If you can deal with the radiation and chemotherapy and you can save your breast, and you can deal with the sickness, then that is your choice. I know what I did was best for me. And I’ve been bouncing on along just fine.”
Although she had to give up bowling, the 79-year-old mother of five loves to fish. She often accompanies a friend out to Bethel Island and recently came home with 13 blue gills and a catfish. Worms, waxworms and crawlers are her best bait. She loves fishing so much, she keeps the equipment in her car, so she can be ready at a moment’s notice.
She also loves getting together with a group of friends, enjoying games, conversation and a nice meal.
“It turns out the majority of my friends are cancer survivors, but do you know what? We never talk about cancer. It never comes up.”
She does have some advice, however, for anyone given the same diagnosis she received back in 2006: “Try not to stress, it only creates more problems. Try to figure out what’s best for you, and then go along with it.”
Recovery Program Gets Patients Moving
A program designed to help patients recovering from mastectomies regain upper body mobility is available through NorthBay Rehabilitation Services. The Post-Mastectomy Program can help patients with functional impairments due to soft-tissue dysfunction, chemo-related fatigue and patients at risk for lymphedema or radiation fibrosis.
The program includes exercise instruction, manual therapy, and patient education. For many patients, just one or two meetings are all it takes to learn the skills to enhance their recovery.
For further information, call (707) 624-7470