Carla Murrath seeks to be an advocate for women diagnosed with breast cancer in their 30s. (Staff Photo: Nikki Puckett)
Carla Murrath recently sat down with staff writer Deanna Allen to talk about her experience being diagnosed with breast cancer. The 34-year-old Buford resident aspires to be an advocate for women her age who are fighting the disease. Today, Murrath, a manager at Famous Joe’s in Buford, had planned to shave her head as a testament to her battle, and she will be joined by about 25 people — at least one other woman — also shaving their heads in support.
DA: Tell me about your diagnosis. How did you find out that you had breast cancer?
CM: My mom had breast cancer originally. She had it twice. She, the first time, had it like 25 years ago and then was diagnosed four years ago with it. Hers metastasized from her breast to her bone to her brain and she passed away last August, so after her death I started doing my own exams. I found a lump myself in, probably, I guess March, and it took me a couple month to get in to the doctor before I could actually go. So when I went for the first time, I had found a lump, my doctor found two lumps. They sent me for a mammogram and an ultrasound. When I went for that they found four masses. I had a biopsy done and then they called me and told me that’s what it was. It was a very short time. They were very quick about it. They diagnosed me, it was June the 17th, with invasive ductal carcinoma. It’s contained in the ducts, your milk ducts in your breast. Because there are so many of them, it’s more rapid through the breast than it would be just in a tumor. But mine has traveled into the lymph nodes already so we opted, my doctors opted to do chemo with me first to make sure that it wasn’t going to travel or to spread into other parts of the body like my mom’s did. … It is not a genetic mutation, so I did not get cancer from my mom. I got it all by myself, at the age of 33 is when I was diagnosed.
DA: How has your life changed since that time?
CM: I’ve learned in the last three month that you don’t take life for granted. You live every day because tomorrow might not be here. In my case, I’m going to be OK, I’m going to be fine because I have to be fine. I have a daughter at home, I have a husband. I’m a mother, a provider. I’m going to be fine because I have to be fine. It’s opened my eyes to not sweating the little things in life, the things that aren’t, you know, as important now. They’re just things. I’m here, I’m somewhat healthy. We’re going to get this tackled. … My mom was an example to many people and that’s where I’ve learned I’m going to be an example for others. I’m going to make it through this. I’m going to be the face of women my age. When you think of breast cancer you think of people with cancer in their 40s or their 50s or their 60s, you know, not at the age of 33 or 34. This shouldn’t be happening. But, you know, for the face of women my age, it’s OK. We are going to survive. We are going to get through this. I feel like this is the path that God chose in life for me. This is the new venture in my life, the next chapter in my life to open the door to new opportunities, meeting new people, being a part of the community. Even if you just help one person, you’re still helping somebody by telling your story. Everybody has a story. It doesn’t matter if it’s cancer, if it’s drugs, alcohol, somebody has a story in life for something. It’s what you take and make of your story, how you use your story to help other people. And that’s what I want to do. I want to be an advocate for women my age.
DA: What has remained the same?
CM: A lot. I still do my daily things. I’m still at my daughter’s school every day, volunteering at the school, working in the library. I still go to work. I still take (my daughter) to football games on Friday nights, we go out to dinner, we do Chuck E. Cheese. We still do everything the same. Nothing’s changed much (except) my hair. If you didn’t know me today, you wouldn’t know that I have (cancer). If I want to be sick I can be sick. I can lay at home. I can be sick. But I don’t want to be sick. I’m not sick. I want to go out, I want to live my life every day to the fullest. That’s where, like I said, life is precious. I could die in a car accident tomorrow. Cancer might not kill me, a car accident could. Most people take every day for granted and I did. I was so consumed in my work and my job, you always think of being a provider for your family. Making money is the best thing because you don’t have any wants, you don’t have any worries and you don’t have any cares, but you realize it’s not the material things that are important anymore. It’s being with your family and spending those days and spending that time. When you’re faced with it, that it’s a possibility that you won’t be able to do that, then it puts things in perspective. We’re not going to sweat the small things. If we have to wait two hours to do the homework to go play at the park, then that’s what we’re going to do, because my life is my family. They’re my rocks. I wouldn’t be this far without them.
DA: Where are you at right now in your treatment?
CM: I’m in my third month of chemo. I started chemo in July, the end of July, so I’m in my third round of chemo. I have six months of chemo and then I will have a double bilateral mastectomy. Then I’ll have another month of chemo after my mastectomy is done. Then I have eight weeks of radiation. If my plan goes according, then I should be (done) by next summer.
DA: If you could share one piece of advice with someone diagnosed with breast cancer, what would that advice be?
CM: Don’t give up. Don’t give up. It’s not the end of the world. It’s just a new chapter. It’s a new beginning. It’s a challenge. Take the challenge. Be who you are. Be true to yourself.