Faces in the Crowd: Terra Houska
As 1 in 8 women will get breast cancer in their lives, we meet a local survivor who beat the disease and had a mastectomy while five months pregnant. Terra Houska is this week’s face in the crowd.
RAPID CITY, S.D. – On Sept. 21, Terra Houska, 38, enthusiastically rang the bell at Regional Health John T. Vucurevich Cancer Care Institute – it signifies the end of chemotherapy treatment and the beginning of a new hope.
Terra found out she had breast cancer the same week she found out she was pregnant with a girl. What to do next was in question, as the cancer was aggressive. Some hard decisions had to be made.
With Terra 21 weeks pregnant, doctors couldn’t use CT scans to determine the stage she was at with her cancer.
“At 24 weeks pregnant, they did a mastectomy on my left breast, no complications. They removed the entire breast and lymph nodes. They removed 47 lymph nodes, and all 47 were positive for cancer. Because of that, they staged it at stage 3 cancer, and then they said that I needed to do treatment right away.”
She began her chemotherapy in Sioux Falls while pregnant. Action needed to happen if she and her unborn daughter were to survive. She was forced to be brave not only for herself but also for her family.
“I was like, I have to beat this. I have to get through this, because I have a little girl growing inside me and I have two boys at home that I need to be strong for. So I had to kind of suck it up … My family, they took it a lot harder than I did.”
She walked away from this life-changing experience learning a few lessons, like not waiting for tomorrow to get something done.
“Have a bucket list and do things on those bucket list.”
She also learned the importance of being proactive with your health.
“Get yourself screened even if you don’t have breast cancer in your family. Also, if you do get cancer of any kind … you really have to educate yourself, like the different treatments with what the side effects are and to really understand what it is. I had no idea that there was so many different types of breast cancer based on what you were diagnosed with … I’ve really learned a lot.”
Terra’s daughter Zanniyanwin is now a healthy 5-month-old whom her brothers adore. Terra still has treatments ahead of her and plans on having a mastectomy done on her right breast. She credits the support of the community, family and friends that got her through those tough times.
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