Teresa Prince is a warrior.
Her journey began as many other women’s, with a mammogram. She remembers the day clearly. It was March 9, 2020 at Knoxville Comprehensive Breast Center (KCBC) before COVID-19 closed the majority of the country. After the mammogram, her doctors wanted her to stay for an MRI and a biopsy. She couldn’t stay, though, because her son needed to go to a health clinic after school. She was rescheduled for Friday, March 13, 2020.
Directly after the biopsy, her doctor informed her the lump in her chest would need to be removed because, whether it was cancerous or not, it did not look good. She received confirmation from the doctor Monday, March 16, 2020 that the lump was malignant and the cancer was in her lymph nodes. She was diagnosed with Stage IIA in the prognostic stage.
Teresa was informed she couldn’t use a KCBC doctor because her insurance would not allow it. She spoke with a friend who recommended Dr. Jillian Lloyd at UT Medical Center in Knoxville and was also considering using Dr. Tom Thompson at Thompson Cancer Center in Morristown. Teresa chose to see Dr. Thompson because he could see her first, while Dr. Lloyd would require her to wait a few weeks.
She said the mass was located in the same location from where she’d had a benign tumor removed during college. Her surgeon used the scar as an entry location when he removed the tumor. She was given the option of having a mastectomy or a partial lumpectomy. She was informed the recurrence rate for the cancer coming back was a five percent chance with a mastectomy and a six percent chance with a lumpectomy. She and her surgeon chose to undergo the partial lumpectomy.
Her surgeon placed a port in her chest for chemotherapy April 1, 2020. The port surgery went well, and the port did not cause her any trouble until later in her journey, when it caused a blood clot to form in her main jugular artery.
She then had to undergo chemotherapy for four cycles which took two months. After her first treatment April 8, 2020, she returned to the treatment center for lab work and passed out as she was walking to the waiting room. She said the nurses were nice and helpful when she awoke.
Due to COVID-19, Teresa was forced to endure chemotherapy alone. During her treatments, she cut her hair and donated it to Children with Hair Loss.
Teresa said she only cried two times during her journey, and they were from what she was experiencing from chemotherapy. She said she could remember after her third treatment, she was lying down in her home praying to God for someone to pray for her. She said two minutes later her cellphone rang with an unknown number, one she would have normally not answered, but something told her to answer.
“It was my former pastor, and of course, he could tell I was crying…he called, of course, to see how I was doing and to pray with me, and it was just one of those God moments. You know He’s there and He’s helping you.”
Teresa said her battle with breast cancer was not her first fight with cancer. She has also had colon cancer and melanoma cancer.
Her former pastor, Daris Doyal, helped her through her first fight with colon cancer. He was also present during the hardest experience she’s ever faced when her daughter, Neely, was born stillborn.
Teresa said her current pastor, Walter Weikel, also encouraged her through her journey.
She attributes her strength through her journey to her faith in God. She said when something like cancer changes one’s life, people of faith turn to God. She said keeping a positive attitude also helped her along her journey.
Teresa had surgery to remove her tumor and lymph nodes August 19, 2020. There were no signs of cancer after the surgery. She then had to undergo radiation, which she had every day for 16 days.
Teresa is now in remission.
Teresa’s mother received a breast cancer diagnosis the previous year. She had to undergo genetic testing, which came back with negative results, meaning her cancer was not hereditary. She also tested negative for the BRCA gene marker, which meant she had a smaller chance of recurrence, compared to 60 to 80 percent if she had tested positive for BRCA.
Teresa expressed thanks to everyone who helped and supported her through sending cards, food, flowers, books, messages and more. She also expressed thanks to her family, her special childhood and school days friends, her former work friends, her churches, both present, First United Methodist Church of Morristown, and former, Adriel Missionary Baptist Church, her doctors, and the nurses and staff at Thompson Cancer Center in Morristown for all the support and help.
“I definitely want all of them to know how much I appreciated their love, and I hope to pass that on going forward. You get a glimpse of God through acts of love.”
She said going forward she plans to research foods and eat better to help with swelling and inflammation caused by chemotherapy.
Teresa suggested anyone going through a breast cancer diagnosis seek support from others. She also suggested getting a book to help keep up with the information and documents received from appointments.
Teresa currently helps her husband, Jonathan, with insurance sales from home. She has two sons, Nayland and Nash. Teresa was formerly the Gifted and Talent Search program director for Grainger County Schools. She retired in 2009.