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After breast cancer diagnosis at 35, Bishop woman emphasizes 'early detection saves lives' – Online Athens

For the last several years, Megan Dickert has been all about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and early detection. 
“I had an aunt that passed away from breast cancer in 2019, so for the last three years I have been dying my hair pink every October to honor her and her fight,” said Dickert, 36, who lives in Bishop with her husband Bill and children Shannon, 14, Charlie, 9, and M.J., 4. “I had pink hair the day I went in for a mammogram. Isn’t that crazy?” 
Last October, Dickert found a lump on her breast and at the age of 35 was diagnosed with breast cancer. 
“Other than my aunt, we don’t really have any family history of breast cancer,” she said. “It’s not something that runs in my family. I found this lump and I’d been this big advocate because when my aunt found out she had breast cancer it was already Stage 4. 
“So I’d been a big advocate for mammograms and early detection because she did not do that. When I found this lump, I said, ‘I can’t be a hypocrite – I’ve got to get this checked out.’” 
Ironically, Dickert found out she had cancer the same day the Oconee County High School football team had their annual “Pink Out” game. 
“I said, ‘This is crazy. I’m 35 and very healthy,’” said Dickert, an ardent practitioner of running, yoga and pilates. “At that point you don’t really know what stage you are, so you just kind of are terrified. You’ve just been told you have cancer but you don’t know to what extent.  
“My biopsy came back and that same day was when Oconee County had their ‘Pink Out’ game. And here I just found out I had cancer and I’m at this football game where everybody’s wearing pink and I felt like, ‘Is this real?’” 
Once she was diagnosed, Dickert got on the treatment fast track, enduring 10 rounds of chemotherapy in 14 weeks, including four showdowns with what cancer patients term “the red devil.”  
“They call it the red devil – it makes you feel like you’re dying,” she said. “It made me feel really bad. There were days I couldn’t brush my own teeth. It makes your whole body hurt and it does the things you’ve heard about – it makes you throw up, makes your hair fall out.  
“I had long blonde hair and then I was bald, which was harder on the kids. I understood my hair was falling out because of the drugs, not because I was sick. To the kids, it was scary because you look sick when you’re bald.” 
After her bout with chemotherapy, Dickert said she could no longer feel the tumor and in February she underwent a double mastectomy at Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center.  
“Dr. (Cody) Gunn was my surgeon. He’s an amazing human,” she said. “I actually told him my favorite part about getting breast cancer was getting to know him.” 
After surgery, Dickert learned she had a lymph node that was cancer-positive and then completed 28 rounds of radiation during the next month.  
And while the Dickert family’s world was torn asunder, the rest of the world was dealing with the COVID pandemic, which provided some major social distancing and a teary Christmas morning. 
“My kids were in school in Oconee County, so when I was doing chemo there were days when they weren’t allowed in the room with me,” she said. “They were out in the world and sometimes my blood counts were so low they weren’t allowed in the room. They’d just kind of wave from the doorway. 
“On Christmas Day, we opened presents with everyone in the room wearing masks. My oldest son woke up with a cough that morning and he thought he had ruined Christmas.” 
Dickert said that there have been blessings throughout her ordeal, and she’s quite prescient when it comes to finding silver linings in dark clouds, especially when it came to her family. 
“My husband was the most affected because I’ve always been the one who does all the things – get the kids to school, make lunches, take the kids to their activities,” said Dickert, who plans to have reconstructive surgery in November. “And all of a sudden he had to figure out how to do those things. We joked that he didn’t know where the kids’ doctor’s office was because he’d never been there.  
“And the first week I had chemo he said he couldn’t get the kids to eat anything because he didn’t even know what they liked to eat. A lot of blessings can come out of something horrible and he will say that one of the blessings is he got to know his children on another level and might not have had that opportunity if he hadn’t been forced to do it. Now their relationship is different – he’s grown closer to his kids because of this.” 
Now disease-free, Dickert is even more adamant about the pink drum she’d been banging for last several years in October. 
“This is a different story if I didn’t do something about that because it was a very aggressive tumor,” said Dickert, who planned to attend the Oconee County football team’s “Pink Out” game in Oct. 1. “If I had thought, ‘Oh, I’ll wait and see what it does’ and put my health off during a pandemic, which would have been really easy for me to do.  
“It could have been a story like my aunt’s, where I’ve got Stage 4 and it’s not curable. Then you’re fighting a disease. This is curable cancer. Anybody that stands still long enough, I’ll talk to them about mammograms. That’s my big thing – early detection saves lives, and it’s not just a slogan.” 
For more information on Piedmont Athens Regional Medical Center’s Breast Health Center, visit https://www.piedmont.org/womens-services/breast-health/breast-health-home

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