WARRENTON, Ga. (WJBF) – Seven sisters in Warren County share more than DNA. They also each received the same medical diagnosis as adults.
“You have a fighting chance against breast cancer. That’s one of the things we’ve been pushing,” Emma Ficklin Sinkfield said.
The Ficklin sisters spend their spare time trying to educate people in their Warrenton hometown about cancer.
“You’ll be at the Circle of Care next Thursday? (Yeah),” Sinkfield asked and her sister replied.
Pauline, Emma and Iris are part of the force behind an organization mobilizing the CSRA’s medical community to shine a light about cancer screenings and keeping the faith if you’re diagnosed. Family Connection of Warren County is a non-profit that sponsors Circle of Care.
“It was a taboo word when I was growing up. You couldn’t say that word unless you whispered it,” Pauline Wilson said.
Back in 1991, 71-year-old Pauline Wilson, who was 39 at the time, was feeling pain in her left shoulder. It was breast cancer.
“Oh, I thought I was finna die,” she exclaimed.
But she lived. Surgeons performed bi lateral mastectomy. And then, more devastating news.
Wilson added, “Two years later I got it in the other breast.”
After a second mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation, she’s now cancer free. But the disease more than 264,000 women are diagnosed with each year, touched six of her sisters. Betty Jean, Marlene, Emma, Mattie, Iris and Annette. Three have died.
Iris Ficklin Bray is another survivor.
“Removed my right breast.”
68-year-old Iris Bray said it was a knot in her chest that alerted her and her family something was wrong. She now gets checked every three months.
Emma Sinkfield is now well enough to be checked annually.
“After I buried my son in August, my mammogram came up in September,” she said.
But the 70-year-old said it didn’t start that way. Her results were initially negative. But her doctor, stood firm. He knew he saw breast cancer.
“I was HER2+ and all of that,” she said. “I had a very aggressive cancer. It was in the third stage. And five, not only were those two malignant in my breast, there were five malignant lymphnodes under my arm.”
After a lumpectomy, chemo, medication and radiation, she’s a nine year cancer survivor. But cancer didn’t stop with their generation. Remember we mentioned Sinkfield buried her son a month before her mammogram? Jonathan Ficklin. He too died from cancer at age 39. We caught up with the doctor who treated him at Georgia Cancer Center.
Dr. Anand Jillella, a Medical Oncologist at Georgia Cancer Center, said it is, “A rare cancer and a very peculiar cancer called amyloidosis.”
Dr. Jillella told us amyloidosis starts in the bone marrow and cells produce a protein that deposits into the kidney, heart and liver, causing kidney failure and congestive heart failure, illnesses Sinkfield said her son endured.
“The deposit had gone into his kidneys,” she said. “How they pulled him through that was they put him on dialysis.”
“If you catch it at an earlier stage and if it’s a younger patient who has a good functional status, you can give them what is called a stem cell transplant,” Dr. Jillella added. “If it works well, you can prolong the patient’s life.”