Joy that breast cancer couldn’t touch

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

October 18, 2013

Third in a series

(Editor’s note: See Breast Cancer support Page A9)

The start of a new year brings with it much excitement and usually many hopes, wishes, and dreams for the coming 365 days. However, for Clinton native Ruby Cox this past January also brought with it a diagnosis of breast cancer. Despite such news, Cox remained hopeful and excited about life, and today, credits that positive attitude and her faith in the Lord as what brought her through the storm of breast cancer.

Sitting in a conference room at the Sampson County Health Department where she’s worked since March, Cox, who turned 65 in May, is all smiles, lighting up the room even as she recalls what is often a very scary diagnosis.

In December 2012, Cox went to the doctor for her annual mammogram and was called back a few days later for a second one when her doctor noticed something suspicious in her left breast. It was something that had occurred 10 years before, leading then to a biopsy which ultimately showed no cancer at that time.

This time, 10 years later, the result would not be the same.

“I found out about it the first week in January,” recalled Cox, thinking back to the start of 2013. “It was about the size of a tiny butter bean…My doctor said that it was the kind that didn’t grow, and even though no one wants it (at all), that’s the best kind to have.”

Although concerned, Cox didn’t let her diagnosis rob her of her joy. “I didn’t worry. My co-workers (then at Rex Hospital) couldn’t believe it. They said I was just laughing and talking just like myself, like I had always done.”

In subsequent appointments, Cox’s doctor gave her two choices — remove the cancerous cell or remove the entire breast. Cox chose the latter.

“I told her (my doctor) that I didn’t want to worry about it coming back again in that breast,” said Cox. “She told me, ‘Ruby, I’m glad you said that.’”

Cox had surgery at Duke Raleigh soon after making the decision and did so well that she was able to leave the hospital the same day, going to stay with family for a few days afterwards before returning to her own home.

“I never felt like I had had surgery,” Cox noted, adding that when doctors removed the drain a few weeks later, “I was really good to go then.”

“I got along so good with it,” she said. “People just don’t believe it.”

And surgery was all that Cox had to endure in order to have the cancer removed from her body, an outcome that was an answered prayer.

“I prayed and told the Lord that I accept I have breast cancer, but please Lord, don’t let me have to go through chemotherapy and radiation, and He did just what I asked,” she shared. “I just have to take a cancer pill every morning, that’s it.”

“It’s all about having a good attitude. If I had just given up, I probably couldn’t have made it,” Cox continued. “I give all the credit to the Lord. I really thank God. I prayed, ‘Lord, You brought me too far to leave me know.’”

Cox also stressed the importance of early detection through annual mammograms.

“I got my mam0gram every year,” she said, mentioning the history of breast cancer that runs in her family. “My mother had breast cancer around 20 years ago. She’s 88 now. And I’ve got a first cousin who had it too.”

Calling regular mammograms “a must,” Cox said “it’s something when women don’t get it. If all women would get it, it would really help. I don’t know if they’re afraid or what. I think some think they can’t get it (breast cancer) but you don’t need to go on that. It pays not to put it off.”

That’s especially true, she pointed out, when doctors call women back for a second mammogram because something didn’t look just right on the first.

“They can’t make you do it, but if I hadn’t of gone back, I wouldn’t have known,” she said.

Now with her breast cancer behind her, Cox, already thankful, is living an even more grateful life.

“I just sit back sometimes and think about it and I just get so overjoyed. I just thank Him,” she praised, her smile spreading across her face. “It’s so wonderful to know that when you know the Lord you can ask Him to do anything and He can do all but fail.”

“When people hear that you’ve got cancer, they tend to think that that’s it, that you’re going to die. I didn’t think that way,” attested Cox. “I knew He was going to take care of me. I knew I’d be all right. I knew He had more work for me to do here. I remember praying, ‘Lord, You did it for my mother, you did it for my first cousin, and I believe you’ll do it for me now.’”

Cox hopes that others who are facing breast cancer themselves will follow her example and “think positive and pray about it. Ask the Lord to give you the courage to go through with it (testing, surgery). Don’t hold back.”

That advice continues to ring true for Cox as she remembers a dear friend and co-worker from her time working at Rex Hospital who lost her battle against breast cancer.

After finding it and having a double mastectomy, Cox said that her friend “was doing wonderful.” Sadly, the cancer soon returned. “It came back in between her breasts and she died. It hurt my heart so bad because she was the one who had trained me and I had gotten so attached to her. But I can say this, she lived her life, she enjoyed life.”

“We just don’t ever know,” said Cox. “That’s why I try to live my life one day at a time and live it to the fullest.”

Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at