Navarre mother battling breast cancer tries to stay positive

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Annie Blanks @DestinLogAnnie

NAVARRE — Carylle Quinn is a normal, busy mother who spends most days caring for her three children, 5-year-old Mykelti, 4-year-old Hadley and 2-year-old Rory.

For work, Carylle wakes up at midnight and delivers newspapers in Navarre until 7 a.m. before going back home, which is when her day truly starts. Between caring for three children and managing her household, Carylle usually doesn’t get to bed until 8 or 9 p.m. before waking up again at midnight and doing it all over again.

For 4 1/2 years, Carylle’s routine remained unchanged. But one day in October while delivering papers, her eyes flashed across a Northwest Florida Daily News article about local women who had battled breast cancer.

“One day (the Daily News) was running the article on breast cancer awareness,” Carylle said. “One of the other carriers has cancer right now, and she was like, ‘You need to go to the doctor.’”

Carylle said she had been “ignoring” several symptoms mostly due to her busy lifestyle and the fact that she was between insurance policies.

In addition to swelling under her arms, Carylle, who had weaned her son seven months prior, was experiencing heavy lactation and chronic fatigue. An initial diagnosis and treatment for mastitis did little to alleviate her symptoms.

But after being rejected by several local clinics due to her lack of insurance, Carylle finally got an appointment with an urgent care doctor, who she said immediately found problems.

“He said I either would be a rock star in the 1800s because I could have been a wet nurse, or something is very wrong,” Carylle recalled. “He gave me a hand exam and immediately found five tumors. Two days later, on Oct. 16, he had me at imaging; the following Monday I was having a biopsy and the following Thursday I had my right breast removed. It was that quick; it was under a week.”

Doctors found 15 tumors in Carylle’s breast and diagnosed her with late stage 3 breast cancer. She had both ductal and lobular cancer, and though her breast and tumors were removed, her cancer remained. She said she was rejected by several doctors due to her lack of insurance until she met Dr. Mauri Lunderman, a Fort Walton Beach surgeon she described as an “angel on earth” who gave her lifesaving surgery at a reduced cost.

“The ductal tumors are gone, but lobular is the issue,” Carylle said. “I don’t know where it’s at, or if they got it all. All it takes is one cell and it can go everywhere. Every second counts is what (the doctor) told me, which is a little scary ’cause I’m waiting for the first of the year.”

Carylle said her husband, Scott, was able to put her on his insurance, but it won’t begin till Jan. 1. She said she will immediately start chemotherapy and radiation at Sacred Heart Hospital in Santa Rosa Beach when her insurance kicks in. Until then, she lives day by day with her three kids, trying to make the best out of her situation.

Doctors told the young mother she has a 17 percent survival rate, but Carylle said she wants to remain “positive” for her children and tells them every day that though her physical being might change, “my spiritual being will stay the same.”

She also wants other women to know the signs of breast cancer and to know they’re not invincible.

“I want mothers to know if they’re breastfeeding, they should not wait until age 40 to get checked for breast cancer,” Carylle said. “If it’s in your genes, if your family members had cancer, don’t wait until you’re 40 years old. I’m a really active person, I like horseback riding, I like kayaking, I have three kids, I just thought I was invincible, but I guess not.”

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