Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Charmaine's Story

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These days, when she isn't working or with her family, which includes five grandchildren, Charmaine Major is encouraging women to stay on top of their health - and their faith.

Major was scheduled to go to the Women's Health Clinic at Tennova Healthcare - Lebanon in November 2004 for her yearly Pap test. A family tragedy caused a delay.

"I didn't actually get to the doctor until April," she said, noting that she went to appointments annually for many years and never had an issue.

"During the routine check-up, they found a spot," she explained. The doctor asked standard questions. Had she noticed anything different?

"He said it probably wasn't anything, but we were going to do a biopsy," Major added. "I said, 'Doc, you've seen enough. You can tell if it's something.' But he wanted to be sure."

That was on a Monday. She received a call on Wednesday to come back into the office that Friday.

"My doctor was standing at the door waiting for me. The biopsy came back Stage 4 Invasive."

She was sent to a specialist at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, and another biopsy was performed.

At this time, she had one grandchild and two more on the way.

"The doctor said, 'You are awfully nonchalant.' I just said, 'God isn't through with me yet. He's blessing me with these grandchildren. He's not going to take me away,'" she recalled. "I believe in the power of prayer. He said that I had a very positive attitude."

After her next surgery, she remembered waking up and her family and friends being happy and laughing.

The doctor came into her room and told her the good news. The cancer was contained. It had not spread. It was smaller than they anticipated.

"He said, 'You've made a believer out of me,' because of the way it had shrunk and was contained," Major said. "I didn't have radiation or chemotherapy."

She has lymphedema - a non-curable condition that can be caused by cancer surgery; however, it is manageable with therapy and exercise.

In the last decade, she's had several scares, but so far they've all been "false alarms," she said.

"I'm very faithful about going to the doctor for check-ups. I've been cancer-free now for 12 years," she said. "Had I gone that November, would it have been Stage4? Who knows? I really just have to express how important it is to have these exams. It can happen so fast."

Major feels guilty at times because her brother's life was taken by lung cancer.

"He was a Marine. He reenlisted after the attacks on Sept. 11th, 2001. He was exposed to chemicals during his time in Afghanistan," she said. "After he was diagnosed, he made it a year, but you are never prepared. He had three children, two of which were very young."

Her motto is that God has a plan for us all. No matter what the situation, whether cancer or something else, she said, "Keep a positive attitude. Hold on to your faith and trust in God."

"I try to share my story when I can. I just hope I can help one person."

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