By Valerie Baldowski
Despite more than a year of struggling with pain and suffering, Marcy Scott said her battle with breast cancer has made her stronger.
Scott, 39, is director of Marketing and Promotion for the Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). She was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2009. After the initial diagnosis, she underwent chemotherapy -- from July through October 2009 -- followed by a double mastectomy in November 2009.
"Everything that could go wrong with me, side effect-wise, has gone wrong," said Scott. "It's been a tough road."
A port inserted into Scott's chest to administer chemotherapy drugs caused blood clots. She had a blood transfusion in September 2009, because she was anemic. Scott explained that chemotherapy kills both red and white blood cells. A lack of healthy red blood cells was what caused her anemia, she said.
Scott underwent radiation treatments in January and February 2010, and then received a complete hysterectomy in March. "I had the genetic marker for breast cancer, which put me at a high risk for ovarian cancer," she said.
Scott was instrumental in detecting a problem early on, said Dr. Heather Richardson, a general surgeon who specializes in breast cancer care. "Marcy's cancer was caught because she was diligent with self-breast exams, and was able to appreciate a change in her body. She brought this change to her doctor's attention, who agreed that there was something abnormal," said Richardson. "The appropriate tests were done immediately. In fact, we performed a biopsy of the abnormal area during Marcy's first visit with us, and this early action allowed treatment to begin as soon as possible.
"She did not have a history that was concerning for cancer, and was not at an age where regular mammograms would have been recommended," added Richardson. "Her own diligence has given her this edge over her disease. I am really proud of her."
Scott said she felt she had no other recourse but to fight the disease. "Everyone's like, 'you're so strong,'" she said. "It's easy to be strong when you have no other choice. You either fight it, or you die."
In September 2010, doctors began surgical reconstruction on Scott with a latissimus dorsi procedure, a tissue flap procedure which uses muscle and skin from the upper back to create a new breast mound after a mastectomy.
"The surgery I had is pretty painful," she said. The procedure involves cutting the back muscle, removing it with the blood vessels attached, and "tunneling" the muscle under the arm, to the chest, she explained. "That's what supports the implant," said Scott.
She has been under anesthesia five times in 15 months. The type of breast cancer she has is called "Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma," according to her surgeon. "When we evaluated the specific characteristics, we found that Marcy's cancer did not have [the] hormone receptor or Her-2-neu receptor activity present. It is what we call 'triple negative,'" said Richardson. "While Infiltrating Ductal Carcinoma is the most common type of breast cancer we see, to have resistance to hormone blocking therapies, and to not be amenable to the medicine Herceptin, makes it a particularly hard to treat [that] sub-type of cancer.
"Marcy, specifically because of her young age and aggressive sub-type of cancer, made us suspicious about having a possible mutated gene that has made her more susceptible to having cancer," continued Richardson. "We encouraged her to undergo testing, and [she] was found to be positive for the BRCA1+ gene. Having this gene gave her an 80 percent likelihood of having cancer at some point.
"Marcy is one of less than 5 percent to 10 percent of all breast cancer patients that can associate their cancer with an inherited gene," added the surgeon. "Most cancers happen sporadically, and are not associated with a gene. But patients with very unusual patterns of cancer or situations such as very young age, very aggressive sub-type, male cancer or ovarian cancers in the family, or patients with Eastern European Jewish heritage with breast cancer in their family, should ask their doctors about tests to look for mutated genes."
The disease, Scott said, is not just hard on her, but also on her family.
"It's been really tough," she said. "My parents were looking forward to being grandparents. Now, I'll never have kids. There's a lot of heartbreak."
On Dec.1, 2009, doctors finally declared her cancer-free. "I'm looking forward to that one-year mark," she continued. She said she has another surgery and two more medical procedures to undergo, but she anticipates being be able to return to work in late October. Her vacation time has been spent in the hospital, but she said in the future, she hopes that will change.
"My goal is, in 2011, to use all my vacation days for vacation, not for surgery," added Scott. She said she is grateful for the family, friends, co-workers, and members of the NASCAR community who have shown support for her. "I am beyond blessed, for the number of people in my life who have reached out to try and help," said Scott.
She said she is also grateful to Ed Clark, AMS president and general manager, who has held her job open when she has been on medical leave.
"Marcy is a principal figure in the Atlanta Motor Speedway family and, as would be the case with any family in this situation, we have tried to support her in as many ways as possible," said Clark, who participated in last year's "Real Men Wear Pink" campaign.
"From encouraging her and trying to best understand her battle, to letting her take the necessary time away from work, we just try to let Marcy know that she is constantly in our thoughts, and we miss her when she isn't here.
"Her courage has constantly inspired all of us," Clark added. "With all Marcy has going on, she has shown tremendous dedication to the Speedway and our staff. We need Marcy's assistance and experience to host successful events, and in spite of her health needs, she has gone above and beyond what has been needed, and has continued to ensure Atlanta Motor Speedway has positive events."
Scott said her message for others is never to take good health for granted.
"I think a lot of times people can get caught up in the day-to-day, and not appreciate life," she said. "If you don't have your health, nothing else matters. Every day is a gift."
Scott has been attending classes and seminars at Piedmont Hospital, to help her cope, mentally and emotionally, with the disease. She said the friendships she made with other cancer survivors were a key component in understanding the emotional impact of cancer.
"I have met so many wonderful people through their programs," said Scott. "As much as your friends want to help, sometimes, you have to talk to someone who has been through it."