Cancer survivor thankful for her family’s support.

October 16, 2014


Survivor Story.

Sponsored by All Access Care of Ludington. Located at 329 N. Jebavy Dr. in Ludington; 231-425-4544;

By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – Sometimes when a person is faced with a traumatic life event like cancer, they never stop to think how important their family will be during their fight. For Ludington resident, Marilyn Hullinger, she never really realized how much her family supported her through her battle with breast cancer until after the fact.

Marilyn was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. She was called by her OB-GYN doctor telling her that they saw something on her mammogram and thought she should probably go for a second opinion. Marilyn went to see Dr. Michael Leahy in Grand Rapids for a second opinion.

“I called his office and they got me in the next day,” Marilyn said. “I thought that was very cool.”

all_access_sponsorship_100114Dr. Leahy completed a needle biopsy and called Marilyn a few days later with the results.

“He called me a few days after I had the biopsy,” Marilyn said. “He told me that it was breast cancer.”

After she received the initial news, everthing started moving very quickly. In the next week after the biopsy, she went in for a lumpectomy. Dr. Leahy said the cancer was a lot more evasive than he initially thought. He consulted with her husband, Dave, and her family about what they wanted to do next. She said she could have had a single mastectomy that same day, but her family decided that they needed to consult with her before making the next decision in the process.

A week later, Marilyn went in for a single mastectomy, where Dr. Leahy removed 29 lymph nods and eight of them tested positive for cancer.

“After the surgery, I wondered where else did the cancer go,” Marilyn said. “When will it rear its ugly head again, but it never has.”

Dr. Leahy referred Marilyn to an oncologist after her surgery to continue her journey towards recovery.

“Dr. Leahy was so great,” she said. “He was just so knowledgeable.”

Following the surgery, Marilyn went to see Dr. William Scott, who started her on chemotherapy and radiation treatments. She started with eight chemo treatments, which occurred every 21 days. Marilyn travelled to Reed City to receive the treatment and she was always accompanied by her son, Zach who was attending Ferris State University at the time.

“My hair started falling out after the second treatment,” she said. “I had a hard time with that. It started coming out in chunks, so one night Dave went and got the razor and shaved off my hair. We both cried and then I was done. I was OK.”

Not only did Marilyn shave her head, she remembered on her way to her third treatment, her son Zach came out and he had shaved his head to show his support and a few days later, her son-in-law, John also shaved his head to support Marilyn’s battle.

“That was pretty cool,” she said. “I got a whole new outlook on hair. It’s just hair.”

Radiation started in May of 2001. Marilyn travelled to Reed City five days a week for six weeks to receive the treatments.

“I drove all the way there, spent five minutes in there and drove home,” she said. “It took me longer waiting for them to give me the radiation than the radiation took itself.”

Marilyn had to wait two years before she could get any reconstructive surgery because she had to be completely healed from the radiation. She received reconstructive surgery on her right side, along with a tram flap, where they took the fat from her abdomen area to reconstruct with.

Marilyn remained on prescription medications for five years after radiation came to an end and she was released from the care of Dr. Scott in 2010.

“Once I got through all that Dr. Scott said I was clear,” she said. “I cried when he released me. He was my security blanket and seeing him made me feel like nothing bad could happen.”

Marilyn has been cancer free for 14 years and said she feels good, but she doesn’t think she ever really thanked her family and friends enough for everything they did for her during her battle.

“I never gave my family enough credit,” she said. “They got me through so much. Dave was really there for me. I would have these little pity parties, which I think are part of the healing process, but my daughter, Jen wouldn’t let me stay in them for too long, which was also a big help.”

Marilyn still has every card that was sent to her while going through her battle with cancer and she said she would keep them forever.

“I can’t get rid of them,” she said. “They meant so much to me. It was so important to have good friends and family around me. There were days that were really hard, but I just told myself that I just had to do it, even though it might not always be pleasant.”

Survivor Stories run the first and third Saturday of each month. If you have a story to tell, please contact Senior Correspondent Kate Krieger or call/text 231-794-8402.

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