Sondra Hampton is one of many breast cancer survivors who is still fighting against cancer inside her body. Hampton was diagnosed at the beginning of January 2013, after finding a lump on her breast in December of 2012. Happily, Sondra Hampton is now an eight-year breast cancer survivor.
Overcoming Initial Challenges
“I think [that was what] saved my life,” said Hampton, when asked how important it was to quickly get the suspicious lump checked out by a doctor. Her doctor performed a mammogram, which showed that there was indeed something to be worried about. Soon after, a biopsy was performed, in order to figure out where the cancer originated and what stage it was in.
Since her diagnosis, Hampton has undergone substantial chemotherapy at Pearlman Comprehensive Cancer Center of Valdosta. The effects of fatigue and hair loss were prevalent while undergoing the harsher form of chemo. Forced to take all sorts of cancer maintenance medications, Hampton nevertheless kept pushing herself to survive through it all, with the help of loving support from her family.
“They were always my biggest cheerleaders,” she said. “I’m the person who always helps others, but I needed help from others.”
Return of an Enemy
To stop the breast cancer in its tracks, Hampton had decided to get a mastectomy of her left breast. However, her fight against cancer continues to this day. In 2015, she began feeling a sharp pain in her right side. Once again, she had the sneaking suspicion that she needed to be seen by a doctor.
Alas, the cancer was back — but this time, it was located in her rib. The diagnosis came back as bone metastases cancer. As for the diagnosis of its progression, it was unfortunately already stage four. This form of metastatic cancer is different from some other types of cancer because the breast cancer cells had spread to other parts of the body. Therefore, the cancer cells broke away from the original location — in her breast — and continued through the lymphatic system, where they eventually settled into Hampton’s rib.
Life Goes On
Today, Hampton continues undergoing chemo, but thankfully not as harsh of a treatment as the first time. Her current treatment plan is focused on keeping the cancer stable, as the lesions will likely never go away. Keeping the cancer contained and preventing new lesions from forming is important to Hampton as well as to her doctors.
“I needed to be there for me,” she said, when talking about how cancer has changed her view on life.
Next up on Hampton’s timeline was the decision to retire as Director of Community Services with Southwest Georgia Community Action Council. She said it was best for her to “stop managing others and manage herself more.” Her coworkers were understandably disappointed to see her go, as she was an important asset to the team, but they understood. Hampton pointed out it was the best way for colleagues to remember her — at the top of her game.
As for her new daily life, each week consists of multiple doctor appointments, and, a few times a month, she undergoes chemotherapy treatments. On a regular basis, she goes to a lung specialist and to an oncologist. X-Rays and computed tomography (CT) scans are also done quite often to keep an eye on the status of the cancer.
Most importantly, Hampton includes the time to be with her family — a loving and supportive husband, as well as three children: one who has graduated high school; one about to graduate high school; and one still “young enough to spoil.” Needless to say, she continues to have her hands full, even though she has recently retired. Hampton is definitely the captain of her family’s cheer squad, as she keeps them pushing toward their life goals, while going over her own speed bumps with as much grace as possible.
Hampton encourages others to follow their gut instinct because early detection and self-care are the best things possible. When asked what she would say to others who are fighting their own battles against cancer, she said to “just reach out, and let someone know you need help.”
To this day, Hampton believes that the cancer was put in her life as a “testimony,” so she could help other people. Whether helping someone who is undergoing the same situation by assuring them they should not feel alone or just reminding a fellow fighter that cancer is survivable, Hampton feels called to share her story in an inspiring, uplifting way.
Breast cancer is often life-changing, but for Sondra Hampton, it seems to have only added to her appreciation for her life and the many people who are in it.
“I wake up every day, and I still have a purpose,” she emphasized, hinting that beating cancer is merely a speed bump on her complete journey.
Written by: Kaitlyne Piper | Photography by: Brandon Pham