Stella Lucas had driven taxis, ridden cross-country on the back of a motorcycle and lived a life she unabashedly described as “all over the place.”
Regular mammograms were just not on her radar.
When breast cancer struck three years ago, the freewheeling mindset still stood her in good stead. “It was really a crazy time,” Lucas said.
“But I had in my mind to be positive about the whole mess. Grieve for a short time, then grab yourself by the seat of your pants and start living.”
A journal and humor
The California native, now a great-grandmother at age 66, kept a journal and a sense of humor throughout the ordeal.
The breast biopsy alone was a bit of an adventure.
“Ever tried to lie still during a biopsy when you have a cold and you’re trying not to cough? That’s a trip,” she said. “Three or four were piled on top of me trying to anchor me as still as possible … It was crazy.”
The diagnosis was ductal carcinoma, formed in the lining of a milk duct in her right breast. “I’m beginning to think the most nightmarish word you can hear is ‘cancer,’” she wrote in her journal.
“Once you hear you have cancer, there is a grieving time because you’re going to lose your breast, maybe your hair; your health may go down the drain,” she said.
Lucas was determined to cut short the mourning. “I looked at it this way — grieve yes, grieve for a little while, but don’t grieve for the whole time,” she said.
“You’ve got to decide, whatever happens, you’re going to face it. You’re going to find the positive things and work on those. I know that’s hard to do, but if you do that, you’re going to come through a lot better.”
Speaking of mammograms
Lucas has long been known for an easygoing attitude, moving from job to job and place to place. She worked as a cabdriver for three companies in Galveston.
Before the cancer diagnosis, Lucas had been helping baby-sit a friend’s children so the friend could work. She had also joined up with Turning Point Church of Galveston.
Then, a visit to the doctor mandated a mammogram. Lucas just didn’t have the money for it. That’s when D’Feet Breast Cancer stepped in.
The nonprofit is aimed at helping uninsured or underserved Galveston County residents who couldn’t obtain vital breast screenings any other way. Founder Dolly Warren and a small army of volunteers maintain a recruitment program for those in need of a mammogram, a scheduling system, reminders of appointments and the free screening itself.
The program helped smooth the path for Lucas for two biopsies, a sonogram and eventually a mastectomy and reconstructive surgery at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Recovery and volunteering
Today, Lucas has recovered, is considered cancer free, and regularly volunteers for the program that came to her rescue. She is quick to testify to the need for mammograms, noting her first screening was at age 62 shortly before she was diagnosed with cancer.
“There’s no excuse for not doing it,” she said. “All those years I didn’t do it — shame on me.”
This week, Lucas is helping assemble packets for the Oct. 18 D’Feet “Celebration of Life” at Galveston’s Moody Gardens. She’ll be among the volunteers at the running and walk events, cheering on other survivors.
“The Lord is my help; He has got me through everything,” she said. “Between God and Dolly Warren and D’Feet, I’m where I’m at and doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”