Ruby Stansbury, 58, of McCarley, doesn’t like saying her cancer is in remission but it’s in healing. Stansbury said her sister’s pastor in Kalamazoo, Mo., sent scriptures for her to meditate on daily and word to her that she was going to live and not die because God said so. And almost a year strong, she’s still fighting.
“I told God, ‘You said I’m going to live and not die,’ and that’s what I believe,” she said.
It was Stanbury’s faith and her family -- husband Henry and daughter Jacqueline -- that propelled her to dig in deep and keep pushing.
“I’m 58 with a 12-year-old daughter,” she said. “I told God, ‘I know you didn’t give me her for me to leave her. You didn’t.’”
Years earlier, Ruby lost her best friend, Ruby Glover, to breast cancer.
“We worked together. She trained me and taught me how to do the work because I hadn’t done it in so long.” They met at Grace Health and Rehabilitation in Grenada. She said the two clicked and instantly became friends.
“They called me Little Ruby because I was so short, and her Big Ruby because she was so tall,” Stansbury said, laughing.
She said the two worked different shifts, and she didn’t get to see her as much because Big Ruby kept a part-time job of some sort. “She said she just liked to work.”
But, when she finally saw her friend, she noticed she had begun to lose weight.
“I stared at her for a few hours, and I said ‘Something’s not right.’ So, I asked her, ‘Are you trying to lose weight?’ She said, ‘No.’ I told her ‘Your clothes are beginning to look a little slack, are you sure? How are you feeling?’ She said, ‘I feel fine. I feel strong.’”
Stansbury said she told her friend that she should go to the doctor, just to be on the safe side. Turns out her best friend had an aggressive form of Stage 4 breast cancer. But, she didn’t tell Stansbury it was stage 4, until she was “leaving.”
“I told her that I had no idea. She took her treatments, but the doctors told her they had done all they could do for her,” Stansbury said.
“The day before she died, I went to see her, and there were a lot of people there. I told her family I was going to come back,” she said. “But, they told me no. ‘She wants to see you.’”
Stansbury said before her best friend “left,” she got to tell her that she loved her and that she wasn’t just her best friend, she was her sister.
“I laid in the bed beside her, and I got to tell her,” she said.
Stansbury said Glover passed shortly after their conversation. She said she wishes that she would have known to be able to tell her friend.
“That always bothers me. I didn’t notice, she didn’t either. She had the type of breast tissue where you couldn’t tell.”
Little did Stansbury know, years later, she would endure her own fight.
Stansbury said she’d went for a mammogram Jan. 2016, and it was negative. Ten months later, in Nov. 2016, while doing her own self-examination, she found a lump under her arm and she had it checked.
She said it took some time to get an appointment with a doctor because she discovered the lump before Thanksgiving and the holidays hit close together. When she finally got an appointment, it wasn’t what she wanted to hear.
She said on Jan. 12, 2017, doctors confirmed what she suspected – cancer.
“I had a suspicion that it was cancer,” she said. “I just knew.”
She said doctors in Greenwood did another mammogram and an ultrasound and found a second lump in her left breast. “So, there were two lumps,” she said.
Stansbury said hearing the words ‘You have cancer’ was devastating. “It was a shock to me, my knees buckled. You always hear that someone else has cancer, but you never want it to be you.”
She said her husband Henry and the doctors were trying to console her.
She said her grandmother also died from breast cancer, and she knew it was hereditary. So, there was a possibility of her getting it.
“My mind was just racing, and my husband was trying to tell me that it would be alright,” she said. “I drew strength from him.”
And it was not only Henry’s strength that she needed, it was her own. Stansbury said that her chemo and radiation at one point both had to be stopped because it was too painful and almost caused her to have paralysis.
Stansbury still walks with a cane today because of pain in her back from the radiation.
“I wanted to have surgery first,” she said. “But, they told me the cancer was so big and aggressive that they had to shrink it first because it was an aggressive type of cancer, fast-moving and can be quite deadly.”
So, they started her on chemotherapy and placed a port in her for her to receive her treatments intravenously.
“It took out all of my hair, but it didn’t shrink like it should,” she said.
Stansbury said she went on and had a double mastectomy.
“They told me that it was up to me, but that it was the best choice,” Stansbury said. She said after surgery, she had a second round of chemo.
“Chemo was physically hard but the second round was worse. I was always in pain, always weak, my balance was off. It was so severe that they had to stop because they said it was going to put me in a wheelchair.”
She said she went through 25 weeks of treatment, and they switched to radiation, where she underwent 25 treatments.
“[The doctor] told me, ‘I’m going to stop it because your skin is burning really bad.’ My skin on my left breast was the color of your top,” Stansbury said, pointing to the reporter’s black dress. “And it was....it was almost like burnt meat.” She said grimacing. “It was painful.”
Stansbury said she went through two more surgeries and physical therapy at Tyler Holmes Memorial Hospital before taking oral chemo.
“I’ve been off the pills six months, and my back still hurts, my balance is still off, and my memory is bad. People get frustrated with me because they’ll tell me something, and I’ll have to ask them to repeat themselves. They’ll tell me, ‘I just told you that.’ And I apologize and tell them I don’t remember. Or my husband will tell me something, and I have to get him to tell me again. My memory is just….I have to tell people to be patient with me.”
She said her cancer was hard, but it was also hard on her family.
“My daughter wouldn’t sit by me. She would distance herself. If I was sitting somewhere, she would sit across the room and just stare at me. I told her, ‘Don’t be afraid. I’m not leaving you. Momma’s not going anywhere. God’s going to bring me through. And He did, He brought me through.”
Stansbury said her support system helped her through her battle. “I don’t really do Facebook. But, I got on there, and I said ‘Pray for me because I need it. I can’t do this by myself.’
“I had churches, friends, people in Tennessee, Illinois, Missouri, all over praying for me,” she said. Stansbury said two of her neighbors, Mary Fluker and Alma Liddell, rallied around her and through her battle with cancer, her bills were paid and she didn’t have to worry.
She said if she could give anyone any advice is to go get checked. “There are people who are afraid of getting checked. I tell them, ‘Don’t be afraid, it’s better to be safe.’”
Stansbury said her advice for anyone who is still fighting breast cancer is to keep a positive attitude.
“My doctor told me, ‘If you have the best positive attitude, you’ll be more willing to fight than you would if depression set in. So fight! Fight! I know someone who was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer, and she had another kind of cancer and she’s still living. It’s been about eight or nine yea