As she lay in bed, the pain and depression tempted the wife and mother to give up her fight against cancer.
Abby Travers was halfway through six chemotherapy treatments, and she felt as though they were killing her. Earlier in the day, she had been lying on a couch in the family room and was too weak to move — too weak to grab the television’s remote control, too weak even to blink.
A family friend who had been watching her during the day walked in, saw something was wrong and called her husband, Jon Travers. She had needed IV fluids to prevent organ failure from dehydration, and now she was in bed, convulsing, ready for it to be over.
That would mean an end to her daily walks. No more Toby Keith or Tim McGraw concerts. She wouldn’t see Jon or daughters Shelby or Tori anymore.
Date of diagnosis
Stage 2 in left breast
Lumpectomy, chemotherapy, radiation.
What has cancer taught me
To live my life. To be selfish and do what I would like to do in life instead of waiting for someone to tell me what to do.
How has cancer changed me
Still a little angry, even after eight years.
What I would tell someone who was just diagnosed
It depends who it is, for what they need. Don’t mince words.
But it would also mean an end to the pain and to the depression the cancer had been causing her for years.
“I laid there in bed, and I said I’m all good with it. I’m not making it through this,” Travers said.
Travers’ third chemotherapy treatment was the worst part of her battle with breast cancer, which also included surgery and radiation. She also spent more than four years battling depression caused by the disease and made worse by the treatment.
Before cancer, Travers was always busy and always moving. She’d quickly make plans for a day, enjoyed exercise and walked at least a few miles per day. She liked going to country music concerts.
She works as a deli and bakery specialist for Marsh supermarkets. Lanny Goad, who has known and worked with her since 1998, said her high energy is contagious and the kind of quality that attracts people to her.
But something changed in 1999 when the mother of two gave birth to her younger daughter.
Travers was 33 when Tori was born. Three weeks after giving birth, she began feeling depressed. She thought she was suffering from postpartum depression, but around the same time she also noticed what felt like a bruise on her left breast.
“It’s like everything just stopped. Everything,” Travers said of the depression.
Suddenly she didn’t feel like taking walks or going to concerts. And at work, she felt overwhelmed by simple tasks such as getting trucks unloaded.
Goad noticed the change, seeing that suddenly Travers no longer sought out challenges at work. He assumed she was dealing with something at home and didn’t want to pry.
Travers was prescribed antidepressants by her gynecologist, but they didn’t seem to work. She tried to fight through the depression, making plans for family events; but she didn’t have the same kind of energy she used to, and she didn’t understand why.
Along with the depression, the pain in her breast never disappeared.
Travers was supposed to get a baseline mammogram when she was 35 but skipped it.
“I’m thinking, ‘I eat right, I exercise, I don’t need a baseline,’” she said.
But when she turned 37 and told her gynecologist about the breast pain, she was sent for a mammogram.
Travers was called back for a second mammogram followed by a biopsy. During one of the tests, she looked up and saw her doctor’s face.
“You could just see that she was upset,” Travers said.
Tears began to roll. She suspected it was cancer but at the same time couldn’t believe it. How could this happen to her at 37?
Three days after the biopsy Travers received the results: She had Stage 2 breast cancer.
“It’s like a death sentence, is almost the way it felt,” she said.
Treatment for Travers included a lumpectomy, the six chemo treatments and radiation. Travers’ husband and kids took the news hard — Tori Travers still cries when talking about it — so when Travers needed someone to talk to, she talked to friends.
Travers called Goad regularly with updates on her treatments and how she was doing. Goad remembers Travers sounding upbeat during most of their conversations, but some days she was also worried about dying.
Most people Travers spoke with told her that everything would be all right, but Goad was more direct with his encouragement. Travers said he was one of the friends who helped her rally herself during tough days.
“I just didn’t feel like it was going to be the end,” Goad said.
On the night when Travers was in bed, shaking from the effects of the chemo, she decided she was done, that she wasn’t going to to receive her fourth treatment. But the IV fluids she’d received did their job, and she felt better the next morning and was up for continuing the treatment.
“Chemo did the best, worst thing to me,” she said.
Once the chemotherapy was complete, Travers began radiation. During the second treatment, she felt herself returning to normal for the first time in years. She didn’t have the energy she used to, but suddenly Travers wanted to be back outside, walking and maybe even going to a concert again. Each day, with chemo behind her and the cancer out of her, she felt a little bit stronger.
“It was like I was behind, I guess. And nobody could stop me,” she said.
Once her strength returned, Travers’ first trip out was to a Tim McGraw concert, which was around the time he was debuting his new song, “Live Like You Were Dying.”
“Needless to say, I’m still a fan,” she said.