Stephenie Coleman was only going in for her first mammogram when she learned something that would forever change her life, something that would make her rise up and fight for her life.
When Coleman, 41, went to the doctor, she was told that she might have to have more images and an ultrasound taken since it was her first mammogram. So when doctors called back and told her they needed her to come in, she wasn't worried. It was when she went into the ultrasound room and saw the images of her right breast up, she immediately knew something was wrong. She was back because of the big white spot in her right breast.
"I knew right then and there," she said. "They did a biopsy next, but at that point, I had made up my mind that it was cancer."
But still, she didn't worry too much. The mother of 3-year-old Parker and stepmother to 18-year-old Camp had too much on her plate. She was planning for Christmas, spending time with her family and husband of 13 years, Russell. It was when the phone rang while she was at work at the Newton County Superior Clerk's Office that things really sunk in.
"When they called me and told me I needed to come in and talk, I broke down. It really hit me then that maybe this was something bigger than me... But, I had a 3-year-old son and I had to fight. He was a big part of it because he came later in life... He came when he was supposed to come and I looked at it as God [sending] him later and I wasn't going to be taken away from him yet."
Born and raised in Covington, Coleman had plenty of people voicing their opinions as to what she should do; ultimately, she made her own decision and told the doctor she wanted a double mastectomy. Part of her decision had to do with the pain in her back caused by what she calls being "heavy-chested."
"It's not the way you want to have that done, but it's there," she said of her decision. "I didn't need them, that didn't bother me. I wasn't partial to them and I didn't think they made me. I didn't need them so they could take them."
Things moved quickly from that point. The cancer was detected around Dec. 16 and on Jan. 20, Coleman went in for her surgery.
Surprisingly, Coleman was more scared of being put to sleep for surgery than anything else.
"I kept thinking, I don't know if I can do this," she said. "I did worry, but I figured that somebody else had it and it was out of my hands."
But, like with everything else being thrown at her, Coleman wasn't about to back down from fear. In the back of her mind was her family, and her beloved son Parker.
Afterward, as she healed, Parker would come in and pet her on the arm, telling her, "Mama, I'll make you feel better." He knew only that she had "boo-boos," and was helpful throughout.
Coleman went through four chemotherapy treatments spaced three weeks apart. Each lasted about three hours. Though they were draining, she said the real heroes were the other patients there.
"I wasn't going through anything compared to them. Mine was a bump in the road and it's over and done. They are up there really fighting. It's an inspiration to go up there and sit with them."
And although she has not been declared cancer-free just yet, Coleman continues on with her life. She decided to have breast implants following her surgery and on May 31, the woman who was once scared to be put to sleep, went under once again to show cancer that it may have knocked her down, but she was in charge of her own life.
Tearing up, Coleman said that when Parker is old enough, she hopes that he will learn what she went through and from that lesson, that his family, no matter what they are faced with, will stay strong.
"I was going to come out one way or the other. I was going to fight it and I was going to take it on with the best of my ability. I was going to fight for my family. I want Parker to know that. That he comes from me and he's just as strong and that our family are together, and no matter what we face, we always will be."