The warning signs of breast cancer can come when a person least expects it. Even if someone is doing something particularly healthy like working out. That’s exactly what happened to Celeste Collier back in 2008.
Collier works at Dollar and Watson Accounting in Guntersville and has for a little over a year. She, her husband Mark and their two children, moved to the Marshall County area in 2010 from Texas. While in Texas, Collier received her cancer diagnosis.
“I remember I was working out on the butterfly machine when I felt an odd pain,” she said. “I got back home and started checking myself. That’s when I found a lump. I had all the scans done immediately and a biopsy done. It was pretty obvious just from the scans that I had cancer. It was just a matter of what kind.”
Collier found out she had stage two breast cancer, but it was dangerously close to spreading to her lymph nodes and becoming stage three. Her children at the time were ages 4 and 7.
To add to the seriousness of the situation, her husband was away at National Guard training and only got to come home on weekends.
“I started chemo and radiation immediately and had a single mastectomy,” she said. “It was so tough at the time but I tried my best to maintain a strong attitude for my children.”
Collier said she stayed as strong as she could, but something happened in the middle of all her treatments that made her break down.
“I got a call and was told my husband was doing airborne training and had a seizure,” she said. “He ended up having a brain tumor that had to be removed. I was just beside myself. I just couldn’t believe that all this was happening to us. Thankfully, he had the surgery to remove the tumor and made it through fine. He’s still doing great today.”
Collier’s children are now much older. Her son, Lucas, graduated from DAR in 2019 and her daughter, Josie, still attends DAR. She said it was her children and the way they coped with their mother being sick that helped her through cancer treatments.
“At the age of 7, Lucas knew that I was sick and needed help,” she said. “So, he picked up a lot of responsibilities around the house. He helped me with Josie and made sure she was taken care of. Josie would come with me during treatments and she always brightened up the day for the others getting treatment. I believe they’re both stronger now after going through that with me. Going through chemo really made me realize just how much God has blessed me.”
It has been 12 years since her last treatment and Collier is happy to say she is 12-years cancer free. Regardless, she still gets regular checkups just to be safe.
“My dad died many years ago from throat cancer mainly because he smoked,” she said. “I can remember the whole family coming together to support him. It’s terrible to be diagnosed with cancer, but I got to see it firsthand with my dad and myself – you really see the best in everyone around you.”
She continued with tears in her eyes, “Before he died, my dad said, ‘I’m glad I got cancer.’ To which I thought, ‘How could you be glad?’ He said, ‘If I hadn’t got cancer then we wouldn’t all be together.’ It’s tough to find the good in something like a cancer diagnosis, but the good is always there. I hope to use my experience to help someone else going through breast cancer.”