RUTLEDGE – Victoria Moritz is a fighter.
Moritz was diagnosed with breast cancer in August 2013. She received a letter from Morristown Regional Diagnostic Center informing her about an irregular mammogram result. She said she was asked to return to the office for a second mammogram and ultrasound.
Moritz said she was in a checkout lane at Save-a-lot when her doctor called her with the results. She said she didn’t remember completing checkout. Moritz made it to her vehicle before breaking into tears. She said her breast cancer diagnosis was her third time with cancer.
She said she and her husband Hank weren’t sure what to do or what was going to happen with her breast cancer diagnosis. She said she began preparing for the worst.
Moritz set up an appointment with surgeon Dr. Tom Thompson. She said Thompson explained the process step by step and she was convinced by the end of her first meeting with Thompson everything would be fine.
The morning of her surgery, she went to Morristown Regional Diagnostic Center and had a hang wire placed in her breast, which allowed doctors to see where the cancer was located. She said the surgery worked well, but did not go according to plan. Moritz said she went from stage one to stage two during the time between her ultrasound and her cancer removal. The surgery was completed, but Thompson was unable to place a drain tube, which led to Moritz visiting his office every three to four weeks for draining.
Moritz said she also completed 16 radiation treatments. She said radiation therapy was a difficult journey. After she completed radiation therapy, her primary oncologist from Tennessee Cancer Specialists received all of her biopsies. She said her doctor informed her if she would take a low-dose chemotherapy pill, it would lower her chances of getting the disease again by 23 percent.
Moritz said the side effects were horrible. She said three to four weeks after beginning treatment, she was lying in her bed with a pillow between her knees and a heating blanket wrapped around her legs, crying from pain. The treatment also caused nausea, which would cause Moritz to vomit if she moved. She said she would have to leave for her appointments one hour earlier than they were scheduled to allow time for her to vomit as they drove.
She said her grandsons were being raised by her at the time and her youngest was hearing from students at school about family members dying from cancer. She said he was convinced she was going to die, and he would be left alone. She said she brought her grandson with her to her next radiologist appointment and asked her doctor to explain the process to her grandson. The doctor cooperated and her grandson better understood what was happening.
“I thought that was a blessing, that most doctors wouldn’t have done it,” she said. “I was so incredibly blessed. I had such a good team of doctors at Morristown Diagnostic. They were great. They still have been.”
She said she is still terrified of the possibility of cancer returning.
“I know it can. My mother did that. The second time she wouldn’t endure the treatment and she died,” she said.
Moritz said her closest friend also had a breast cancer return and refused to do the treatment a second time. She said she was angry with her mother and friend for refusing treatment at the time. However, she said after she survived the treatments herself, she understood why they wouldn’t want to continue treatment.
Moritz said she is still living with side effects from her treatments. She said she still has bald spots from radiation therapy and her treatments caused her to lose her teeth. She said she also still has incredible pain in her legs. She said she was beginning to get some of her energy back, but would never get it back to where it was.
“If you have never actually had it done, you have no clue what that journey is because I never would have imagined things that I had to endure,” she said.
Moritz said if she hadn’t had her mammogram when it was scheduled, she could have quickly made it to stage four of the disease. She said because her mother had breast cancer and she had already had cervical and liver cancer, she attended her yearly mammograms.
Moritz said she was blessed to be alive and to have had the support of her family. She said her family would come to help whenever she called.
“There were days I would not have gotten up out of the bed, and there were a lot of days that I would not have taken that pill. I would just lay there in that bed and I would just cry and tell my husband, ‘I’m done. I’m just done,’” she said.
Moritz said her husband told her she couldn’t be done because she had her children and grandchildren to fight for. She said every time her family came over to help, it made fighting the disease worth it.
She said family members of loved ones with breast cancer need to be strong for their loved ones. She said to let them be weak if they need to be, to give them strength because it’s hard to go through breast cancer.
She said anyone going through breast cancer needs to let their families help them.
“In the long run, you’re going to wake up the next day and know why you need to take that pill even though you don’t want to,” she said.
She said those who don’t have a family support system can find support through breast cancer helplines. She said no one needs to make the journey alone.
Moritz is a 60-year-old Rutledge resident. She said she loves her family and fought to survive for them. Moritz said if she had to go through breast cancer a second time, she would endure the treatment for her loved ones. She said she would fight with everything she has.