Local woman determined to beat cancer for second time

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DALTON, Ga. (AP) — Michele Winn is 33 and battling cancer, again.

In September during a routine self-examination, Winn found a lump in her left breast.

"I looked in the mirror and saw something," said Winn, a 2000 graduate of Dalton High School. "It was kind of weird because I know it wasn't there the night before."

The next day she called the doctor and went in for an appointment.

At the age of 16, Winn was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer, in her right leg.

"When I was younger, cancer scared me, wondering if I was going to live," Winn said. "For me as a child that was my only concern. When I saw my mom cry I figured this is serious."

She's still dealing with the effects of bone cancer. To date she's had six surgeries on her leg.

Winn was in remission for 17 years until she received a call from the doctor confirming her biopsy was positive for breast cancer.

Winn was at work when she got the news. She said the waiting game was too much so she called the doctor's office. A nurse answered the phone and told her to hold for the doctor.

"I just remember him coming on the phone and saying, 'Hey, Michele, I'm sorry,'" she said. "I told him not to say anymore because 'I won't hear anything else you say.'"

Winn said she "lost it" at work and remembers running outside crying.

"I don't remember anything else after that until my mom showed up and I was lying outside on the ground," she said.

Winn was surrounded by co-workers. "Everyone was hoping and praying that I didn't have to go through this again," she said.

Steve Travis has worked with Winn at Advance Auto for nearly six years. He says she is a wonderful person.

"She doesn't deserve what she's going through," Travis said. "Michele always has a great attitude, she's strong, she's tough, and she doesn't let anything get her down."

Winn heard about the Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Newnan.

"I thought I'd never get in there. They will probably send me far away. It will be so much traveling. Where will the money come from? So many things going through my head," she said.

Winn said she finally got over her doubts and called the center. "Even over the phone I felt so at ease just talking to these people that I've never seen," she said.

Winn was told to come in that following Sunday to get started.

"I get there and these people come running out and opening doors for us, they had big smiles on their faces," Winn remembers. She said she felt at ease.

While at the center, doctors discovered Winn's right breast was stage 2 for breast cancer and the left was stage 1. Winn decided to have a double mastectomy.

"Michele is a very positive and upbeat person who survived cancer at a young age," her oncologist, Dr. Ritwick Panicker, said. "She is now undergoing treatment for breast cancer and it's a privilege to care for her — she is such an inspiration to everyone."

Winn began chemotherapy at the center on Dec. 8. The process took five hours. She has three sessions left. She'll return to the center every three weeks for the chemo. Each round is expected to last about five hours.

Winn has no doubt that "I'm going to beat this. After my last round of treatments I'm hoping I get to ring the bell and be in remission. That would be a really good thing."

She will then be required to have regular checkups since she is in the positive cancer gene bracket.

"My bone cancer could come back or I could get another type," she said.

Winn said she's not expecting that to happen.

"For my first cancer I wasn't supposed to have kids but I did," she said. Her son Kristopher is 13. "My boy is my world," she said.

He's been staying with his father and stepmother for the time being.

"Being apart from him is so hard, because before I didn't have him so I didn't have anyone else to worry about," Winn said.

"His dad and stepmom are so awesome, they're not really taking my place, but they are helping me so he won't have to see me like this. I don't want him to see me like this, but he totally understands that I'm going to get better."

Winn said having a support system is great. Her brothers and mother Minnie Hill have been her number one supporters.

Hill said from the very beginning she knew she had to lean on God.

"I had to walk with faith and I had to walk with love, because God said 'If you ask anything in my name I will do it,'" she said.

Hill said the first time her daughter had cancer was hard and this second round is really taking a toll on her.

"It's really hurting me because I can't support her like I use to, but I know God is able," she said.

Winn is on medical leave from work and has moved back home with her mother.

Trianne Young Bowen is a longtime friend of Winn and has started a GoFundMe account in hopes of alleviating some of the financial burdens. So far $1,525 of the $5,000 goal has been donated.

Bowen said Winn is a fun-loving person who is always smiling.

"She beat cancer once, she'll do it again," Bowen said.

"It just really sucks that she's having to go through this again," Bowen said. "She's always there for other people, she loves her son and is a great mom."

Winn said she's appreciative of every donation.

Hill said through it all she knows God will provide.

"This is a strong thing, when people hear cancer they think they will die, but like I told Michele, cancer don't always kill you."

"You have to be strong in the mind," Hill said. "Cancer is a thing where if you want to die, yes, it will take you out, but if you want to live ..."

Michele Winn interrupted, "You're going to fight."


Information from: The Daily Citizen, http://www.daltondailycitizen.com

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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