Spotlight: Meet Breast Cancer Survivor Mrs. Gallagher

Spotlight: Meet Breast Cancer Survivor Mrs. Gallagher

STAFF WRITER Rasika Sivakumar

“God gives his hardest battles to his bravest soldiers” is no understatement when it comes to those who battle cancer. One of those soldiers is Mrs. Rebecca Gallagher, a proud survivor of breast cancer and the MHS teacher of Algebra II and Honors Algebra II/Trigonometry. She never stopped fighting and was supported by her family and friends every step along the way to becoming cancer-free. 

After finding an abnormal lump under her left arm, a biopsy of that area officially diagnosed her with stage I breast cancer in January of 2018. Mrs. Gallagher expresses how fortunate she was to have caught the cancer early as the cancer ran in her family, starting with her grandmother. Three out of four of her siblings were BRCA2 positive, meaning that the gene that protected them from breast cancer was damaged. 

Mrs. Gallagher shares her experience from the first few months within diagnosis: “It was definitely, definitely the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through. Shocking. For the first month [after diagnosis], I don’t think I ate. I was always sick to my stomach because I was just so shocked over it. My kids were in eighth and eleventh grade at the time. We tried to maintain normalcy in the house: they went to school every day and never stayed home with me, even during my surgeries. I was fighting physically, but they were fighting emotionally. That first month or two was scary. Until you have a plan and you’re ready to move forward with the doctors, it’s scary.” 

The original plan for treatment was lumpectomy (surgical removal of the cancer tumor from the breast tissue) and radiation. After being genetically tested, she found out that she was also BRCA2 positive. This also increased the possibility of breast cancer re-diagnosis and diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Therefore, Mrs. Gallagher underwent a double mastectomy (surgical removal of both breasts entirely) and oophorectomy (surgical removal of the ovary), finally becoming cancer-free. 

Although her cancer has been terminated, Mrs. Gallagher visits her oncologist every six months and will do so for ten years. She must stay on the lookout for any other side effects of BRCA2. 

She shares how much cancer has changed her for the good, making her realize the value of life’s every moment. Her advice to any cancer patient or to those who have diagnosed family members is to “not just [live] Monday through Friday and the weekends, but [to enjoy] every single day.” 

After her retirement, Mrs. Gallagher would love to be a full-time mentor and offer emotional support to others diagnosed with breast cancer to help them through their journey. She plans to move to Florida next summer with her family, something she’s always wanted to do.