Manchester native, and cancer-survivor, Annissa Grooms is one of four winners of the Fabulous Four essay contest. The national contest, started two years ago to raise awareness about breast cancer and to honor four women who have dealt with a breast cancer diagnosis, is part of Bowl for the Cure, a year-round fund raising initiative sponsored by United States Bowling Congress in partnership with Susan G. Komen foundation.
The four contest winners receive a five-day trip that starts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area with a tour of the Susan G. Komen headquarters. Afterward, the group will visit the International Bowling Campus in Arlington and receive bowling lessons from the Team USA staff at the International Training and Research Center. The final stop will be Las Vegas and the 2016 Women’s Championships at the Southpoint Bowling Plaza. The group will kick off the tournament and compete as a team in the opening squad.
Receiving a cancer diagnosis is a frightening, life changing experience. The grim news often creates terrible psychological trauma that can negatively effect the healing process. It’s a jolt, and everyone adjusts differently to it.
“Cancer has given me opportunities,” Grooms declares. “I have had the chance to do things I never would have done otherwise. Because of cancer, I’ve had some really amazing opportunities. The first year I was diagnosed I did the Breast Cancer SkyDive through Fox 19, and I got to meet Tracy Johnson, who does the local segment called Think Pink. I’ve done four interviews with her so far. Now, I’ve won this contest.”
A native of Manchester, Grooms was diagnosed with stage 2A breast cancer in December of 2012. The next month she underwent a double masectomy, a biopsy that revealed the cancer had invaded her lymph nodes, and began taking chemo and radiation treatments.
“I saw an invitation on Twitter to enter this essay contest about your breast cancer story. So, I did it. I wrote about my diagnosis, my journey, and what keeps me upbeat and positive. Going to Vegas was on my bucket list, I though wow, this would be great way to go to Vegas.”
Grooms credits her good attitude to her daughter, Gracie, “I try to be positive because I have a 14- year old daughter who was 12 at the time of my diagnosis. She’s my motivation to stay positive. I want her and her friends to know cancer doesn’t have to be doom and gloom,” she adds. “A lot of it’s about having the right attitude. So, I wrote about how proud I am of her, and the fact that she is my motivation. I entered the contest, but I didn’t tell anyone, I entered and then I just put it out of my mind. I figured if it’s meant to be it will, if not, then, not, I didn’t tell Gracie, I didn’t tell my best friend, or my parents, or anyone else. I just forgot about it.”
She was very surprised when she received the call telling her that she’d won the contest.
I planned this trip to Vegas not even thinking I would win.
“I was in the drive thru of the bank and I get a call. This lady says congratulations, you’re part of the fabulous four. My daughter and I had just gone to a UK game a few days before, and I thought I might have signed up for something at the game and forgotten about it,” Grooms explains. “I thought it was a telemarketer, then she reminded me of the essay contest, once she started talking about it I was like, Oh my gosh, yeah. I do remember. She told me all the details. I went to my best friends, and told her I won, but I didn’t know if it was for real or not, and she said call back to see if it’s real. So I did and I asked, “Is this for real? Really, did I win?” and she said, “Yes, you did!” It took a day to sink in. I couldn’t believe I’d won.”
Even though she continues to undergo chemotherapy, Grooms says that her health is good, “If you look at me you wouldn’t know that I have cancer, I look healthy, and usually I feel healthy. I take an oral chemo for 21 days, then a two week break from it. I have a lot of side effects from that, but I’ve adjusted to it, to me it’s normal.”
” I’ve had a lot of really neat experiences, thanks to my breast cancer. It’s given me a completely different way of looking at things. I have a different attitude than most people who have cancer. I don’t get upset or stressed over stuff because having cancer really puts things in perspective about what’s important and what’s not. To me the most important thing is that I’m happy and my daughter is happy, and I just don’t stress over little things.
“I’ve had doors open for me, that wouldn’t have been for anyone else. I can’t be mad about it, I feel like everything happens for a reason. I just can’t be mad about it.”
Grooms has documented her cancer journey on Facebook. “I wanted to put it out there in a positive way, I leave the doom and gloom off there to show people that you can go through this and still have a smile on your face, you can be bald and still smile.”
“I’ve met so many people who have cancer who are angry. I spent a month or two feeling really bummed out about it. I decided I can’t do this, I’ve got to focus on the positive. I think you have a better chance if you have a good attitude about it.”
Following is the essay Grooms submitted to the Fabulous Four contest.:
“Diagnosed in December 2012 with Stage 2A breast cancer at the age of 40 years young. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction on January 2, 2013. Upon discovering cancer cells during my sentinel node biopsy, 4 rounds of chemo followed. My hair fell out one week after my first treatment, I had an allergic reaction to the chemo drugs and my body reacted with red hives, head to toe. Nothing a round of steroids couldn’t cure, so 3 more rounds, I did endure. Silicone implants replaced my tissue expanders in June 2013, and by August I got skin grafted nipples. Tamoxifen was my new daily drug. I had gained a new outlook on life, thankful and blessed…I had survived! Jumped out of an airplane to celebrate, rallied a relay for life team, had the opportunity to be on the local news not once but twice raising breast cancer awareness, and even my beautiful 12 year old daughter got inspired and donated the money from her 4-H project market hog during our county fair that year. I felt like the poster girl for Breast Cancer Awareness in our small community. I had came, I had fought, & I had kicked cancers butt! I took up running with my best friend and the following year we ran the Cincinnati Race for a Cure. Once again, we were interviewed on the Cincinnati news, an update of sorts on my progress. The fall of 2014 I fell and injured my shoulder. By the end of February the pain was unbearable and I decided I must have torn my rotator cuff in the fall. I scheduled an appointment to see an orthopedic doctor. X-rays were taken, expecting to hear the news of a torn rotator I was completely devastated when he said the word “tumor” instead. You cannot say “tumor” to a cancer survivor I informed him. He hung his head, and asked for my oncologists phone number. A bone scan & MRI were ordered and I left hysterical. The bone scan and MRI confirmed my worse fears, my breast cancer was back. It had spread to my bones. Within days I was undergoing surgery on my shoulder to remove as much tumor as possible. Indeed it was cancer. Fed by estrogen, my one remaining ovary was ordered to be removed. 2 weeks after my shoulder surgery, I was in the OR again, this time to remove my ovary and tube. By the end of March my mom, my daughter, & myself were on a plane bound for Florida for a much needed break before radiation. I was put on a new FDA approved medication, ibrance, the guine
a pig for my oncology group, ordered 10 rounds of radiation to the shoulder and T10 of my spine. When the whirlwind calmed I learned what metastatic meant. Devastated by the thought of not seeing my daughter graduate high school, college, get married, have children….This time was different from the 1st. I couldn’t kick cancers butt and declare myself the winner. Finally, I pulled myself together and vowed to quit wasting time feeling sorry for myself, and start living once again. Monthly oncology visits, infusions and medicines are my normal, but so is living each day to the fullest with my beautiful daughter. It’s funny how a year ago, I had no idea what metastatic breast cancer was, or what it meant. My mission is to educate as many people as I can about not only breast cancer, but about metastatic breast cancer. I’m hopeful that by the time my daughter is 30 (granting she doesn’t carry the CHEK2 like myself) and starts her mammograms, that there will be a cure for breast cancer, so that she never has to worry about living long enough in order to watch her daughter accomplish the goals that every mother hopes and dreams of for their children.”