“I had a mammogram three months before I found the lump myself. I was in the shower Thanksgiving morning and I found a lump,” she said. “I had to wait over the weekend to go to the doctor.”
The holiday season suddenly became drenched in anxiety.
“It was difficult. It was difficult on my family more so than me,” Stowe said. “They were devastated. It was hard on them.”
The news hit her mother, Lillian Cash, hard after the 1995 death of her husband, Louis Cash.
“My dad had cancer of the esophagus,” Stowe said. “It was a death sentence to my mom. She couldn’t even talk about it. She had to go in another room and shut the door when I told her. She watched my daddy struggle so long.”
Stowe had surgery.
“I had a double mastectomy. I had my right breast removed first,” she said. “I had the second a year later when I finished up chemo. I found the lump in my left breast. I had the second one removed.”
Stowe said she would rather have the aggressive treatment than another round of chemotherapy.
“I had chemo for almost a year. I understand now they have improved it a lot. Then, you did eight hours of a slow drip of treatment. Every third treatment I got a stronger dose, which makes you sick,” she said.
It also made her bald.
“I lost all my hair. If I had a really good feature, it was my hair. Being bald-headed was not fun,” Stowe said.
Neither was chemo, but her husband Tommy made it endurable.
“My husband retired and he went with me every treatment and every doctor visit,” Stowe said. “He was by my side for eight hours during chemo.”
In remission since 2008, Stowe said she is thankful for her blessings.
“Going through cancer gives you a whole new prospect on life. Now I’m so grateful. I have four beautiful grandchildren I didn’t have then,” she said.
Stowe has advice for all women, even those considered too young to begin having mammograms.
“I check my body all the time. Be aware of your body. I don’t take anything for granted,” she said.
The grandmother also gives back to the community through Henry County Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society staged at a high school stadium.
“I love it,” Stowe said about the 24-hour event. “I raised a lot of money.”
She volunteers with her daughter Tonya Brantley, a Timber Ridge Elementary School physical education teacher who also co-chairs the event.
“She is an extraordinary person,” Brantley said “She is the one bagging thousands of T-shirts for teams before Relay, cleaning the bathrooms at Relay at 2 a.m., picking up trash around the track at 5 a.m. and dancing at 6 a.m. She Relays all night!”