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Know Your Neighbor: Dog helps identify breast cancer

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    Marie Rainey poses with her dog Coco at her home on Wednesday, Oct. 7. Coco led Marie to discover her breast cancer back in the summer. LAUREN MALEK/Staff

Marie Rainey is a councilwoman and community leader in Eatonton who has become a beacon of strength and positivity in the wake of her recent breast cancer diagnosis. Despite what most people would see as an unbearable struggle with a serious illness, she has continued to serve the city and remain active within the community.

Rainey was officially diagnosed with breast cancer in May after an incident with her dog, Coco, led her to discover a mass in her breast.

“My dog jumped on me and scratched me to no end on my breast,” Rainey said. “So, I went and got in the shower and there was something clearly there that shouldn’t have been there.”

She went to the doctor a week later for a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound and soon received the lifechanging news.

“The moment he put the ultrasound machine on my breast, he said, ‘You have cancer,’” she said.

Rainey had to wait an agonizing week until she received the results of her biopsy, and on May 29, she was officially diagnosed with stage 2 invasive ductal carcinoma.

“When I got it, it was crushing,” she said. “But now after hearing the diagnosis, I joined a fitness support group for women with cancer that has really helped out and kept me from sulking in my symptoms.”

She started her first round of chemotherapy soon after her official diagnosis and planned to go through 15 more rounds once a week until early November. She also decided to undergo a double mastectomy surgery on Nov. 24.

Marie says she sees her scheduled surgery as “a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s shining bright and telling me to come on. It’s almost the end of my journey.”

Marie says she sees a lot of younger women at different support groups.

“Obviously the importance of a mammogram is a huge thing,” she said. “It’s not an old person’s cancer anymore. It’s becoming a young person’s cancer, so prevention and making sure you’re checking yourself and going in if you feel even the slightest thing is obviously a huge thing.

“I think the main thing is just to be so in touch with your body, know how your body acts. That way you know if one thing is off, that something’s wrong.”

Due to the uptick in breast cancer in younger and younger women, Putnam General Hospital has recently added Genius 3D Mammography exams to their list of diagnostic tools due to its ability to provide a more thorough scan of the tissue and more accurate results than traditional 2D mammography machines. Anyone who would like to schedule a Genius 3D Mammography exam, or have questions about this procedure, may call Putnam General Hospital at 706-923-2055.

Rainey says Putnam has been a very supportive community for her during her journey.

“I will say living in a small town has been an enormous factor in a lot of my recovery and going through this,” she said. “I get two to three handwritten cards a day from people in the community and we have a big church family that has loved on us and been there for every need. They’ve checked on the kids and brought our kids stuff to make sure they were doing okay, so I would say living in a smalltown community has made it a whole lot easier.”