MAYPEARL — In the summer 2005, Leddie Lackey of Maypearl had big plans.
She was raising her two children on her teacher’s aide salary, so big elaborate vacations were not in her plans. She had the summer off from her job, so she planned a road trip with her best friend, Jill Talamantez, to Minnesota to visit Jill’s family.
While in Minnesota, Leddie began to run fever and became very ill. Jill proved how important a best friend can be when she cut the visit with her parents short to drive Leddie back home to Texas.
“We made it home on a Friday and I saw my regular doctor the following day,” Leddie said. “He sent me to the emergency room for a CT scan to try to discover what was wrong with me. The test showed a very large mass on my right ovary. They performed surgery very quickly to remove the mass. The test results were something I was not expecting and quite a blow – I was told I had ovarian cancer.”
Leddie is very close to her family and has a great support system in her parents, Eddie and LaNita Vaughan. One of her favorite stories is the day she had the surgery to remove the tumor.
“I was not sure if I was going to make it or not,” Leddie said. “My parents were in the room with me before surgery, assisting me to put on those thick, tight hose that help prevent blood clots. We began to pray and I looked up and my dad was crying.
“I refused to let the sight of him crying be the last thing I saw before I went to sleep. My dad had always said with three daughters he should have purchased stock in a panty hose company. I cracked some joke about putting a runner in the hose,” she said. “Dad began to laugh and I was OK to go to surgery after that. Laughter has helped us through this fight with cancer.”
After the surgery, she was referred to a gynecological oncologist at Medical City in Dallas. When he examined her, he found additional concerns so he ordered a colonoscopy. Dr. Anthony Macaluso performed the test and uncovered a golf ball sized tumor, which had almost blocked off her colon.
Leddie underwent her second major surgery in four weeks with two of the most experienced doctors performing the surgery.
“On Aug. 18, 2005, I placed my life in the best hands possible,” she said. “The result was devastating. I was diagnosed with stage IV cancer. They performed a hysterectomy and removed a section of my colon with several lymph nodes. Test confirmed I had stage IV colon cancer.”
Dr. Charles White, her oncologist, ordered chemotherapy six weeks after the surgery. She would take an entire day of premeds and wear an infusion pump home for two days. She would drive back to Medical City in Dallas to have the pump removed. This continued for 12 sessions. Leddie’s cancer cell count reduced and she began follow up visits.
Things went well for 18 months, then it happened. Life dropped another bomb.
In December 2007, Leddie discovered a knot just behind her collar bone. That old familiar feeling hit in the pit of her stomach. When the growth was removed, she learned it was malignant, the same type of cancer as before. An additional regimen of chemo was prescribed following the same schedule as before. The treatments began in December and ended in June 2008.
“Each visit to the oncologist confirmed the cancer was staying away. The cancer markers continued to reduce or drop below the normal range. I felt really good until October 2010, when I began having pain in the right side of my abdomen. Even after several visits to doctors they could not identify what was causing the pain. Dr. White ordered a CT scan that did not show anything of concern, but when the pain continued, he ordered a PET scan,” she said.
The result of Leddie’s PET scan revealed the reason for her severe pain. The cancer had returned in several lymph nodes in her chest and abdomen. It also showed a soft tissue mass in her abdomen. She began her third round of chemo in January 2011.
There is a silver lining in all of this dark cloud Leddie experienced. In August 2009 she met the “most wonderful man,” the love of her life. Even with all of her health problems, Jim McDonnell knew he wanted to ask her to honor him by becoming his wife so he proposed last year. They were married in March of this year knowing it is a new beginning of their life together. They had the perfect wedding and honeymoon cruise.
“Jim does not like me having to endure the chemotherapy treatments, yet he refuses to allow that to run him off. I am so thankful I have found my ‘happily ever after’ in spite of the cancer,” she said.
Leddie received a two-week delay from chemo from her oncologist as a wedding gift. She is halfway through her treatments with six remaining. She still has pain in her abdomen that is so severe it takes her breath away. Jim is off every Friday so he goes to the chemo sessions with her. So does her mom. The treatments make her very ill – sometimes she throws up all the way home.
“My mom is my chemo buddy,” Leddie said. “She has not missed one treatment through any of the three cancer episodes.”
A blood test before each chemo treatment has shown a decrease in cancer cells. She takes this as a good sign. Jim and Leddie are making plans to hunt, fish and travel.
“I am so happy right now, even with the treatments,” she said. “I am fighting the cancer as hard as I can because I love my life, my children, my new granddaughter, Merritt, my parents and my husband. I want to experience happiness and am well on my way.”
Relay For Life of Central Ellis County will be held May 20-21 at the Waxahachie Sports Complex on U.S. Highway 287 and Broadhead Road. To have a team, contact team development chair Denise Owens at 972-742-3982 or firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are a cancer survivor, contact Donna Daniell at 469-337-0438. For more information, contact event chair Jennifer Buckhannon at 214-458-1911.