Magan Hughitt-Holden of Belton personifies perseverance.
She’s the mother of six children, ages 16-10, a Temple College nursing student and is being treated for Stage 3 C breast cancer.
Hughitt-Holden had been working at Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Temple as a patient care technician but is now on temporary disability.
She’ll be graduating nursing school in May 2020.
Hughitt-Holden, 33, was diagnosed in April. She completed 5½ months of chemotherapy and had a double mastectomy two weeks ago. Once the surgical wounds heal she’ll start receiving radiation treatments, five days a week for five to six weeks.
She’s meeting with a geneticist this week, because there’s a high probability she carries a mutation of the BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.
Hughitt-Holden had two great aunts who had breast cancer. That, along with her young age, point toward some sort of genetic predisposition toward the disease.
Her children are keeping Hughitt-Holden motivated throughout the recovery processes that comes with the different treatments.
“I look at those kids and I think ‘I have no choice,’ I have to do what’s necessary,” she said.
The oldest children have taken their mother’s diagnosis the hardest, probably because they have known someone with cancer and realize a cure is not a given.
The youngest also is very concerned, Hughitt-Holden said.
“I think it’s an attachment issue; she’s always right by my side,” she said.
Hughitt-Holden said she didn’t allow herself to get overwhelmed with everything that was in her future following the diagnosis. She knew she would lose her hair and her breasts.
“Losing my hair was harder than the mastectomy for me,” she said. “I had really long hair, and I took care of it and I was proud of it.”
The day she noticed a significant amount of hair was falling out, she decided to take a shower.
“I notice clumps of hair were coming out, I opened the shower door and a mirror was right there,” Hughitt-Holden said. “It was too much all at once and I shut the door.”
She gave herself a pep talk, exited the shower, then went and sat down next to her husband, Chancey Holden, and told him her hair was falling out.
“He said ‘it’s going to be OK,’ and I told him ‘No, it’s not, at this moment I’m not OK with it,’” Hughitt-Holden said.
The next day, Hughitt-Holden’s 13-year-old helped shave the few strands of hair left on her head.
“You think you’re holding onto something that is so precious and you realize it’s just hair, people go without it every day,” she said.
Hughitt-Holden admits she might have overreacted to her lack of hair when she ordered about 20 wigs. However, the wigs are really hot during the summer and she would just snatch one off her head when it became unbearable.
Some cancer survivors and patients are quick to share their stories when they see a woman with a bald head. A woman in Walmart who had recovered from the same cancer and stage as Hughitt-Holden was encouraging.
Hughitt-Holden said that, as with any illness, the individual wants life to slow down to better observe what’s happening in their orbit. Since becoming ill, she has been better able to see the good in people. Of course, there are always a few that disappoint.
Ingram said friends and acquaintances really came through with support at fundraisers and for everything else.
“Somebody donated a bull,” Hughitt-Holden said. “I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with it, but luckily it sold at an auction the very next day.”
On her last day of chemotherapy her supporters came out in full force to the Vasicek Cancer Treatment Center to celebrate with her.
Holiday plans have been altered this year. Hughitt-Holden’s youngest has requested that Christmas be at home with mom and dad and her brothers and sisters.
“So, we’re going to stay at home and make our own fun,” she said.
Hughitt-Holden said she believes the treatment she’s receiving is good, but she also believes God has played a role in the successes she’s had, such as the post surgery scans that didn’t show any metastasis beyond the lymph nodes.
In 2017, Hughitt-Holden had found a pea-sized lump in her breast. Her doctor wasn’t overly concerned, but did schedule Hughitt-Holden to have a mammogram. Hughitt-Holden rescheduled it and then didn’t go.
Hughitt-Holden later noticed she was feeling something under her arm. She waited to see her doctor until it became uncomfortable and she noticed it was growing.
She saw her doctor and was immediately sent to get a mammogram, an ultrasound and a biopsy.
“I knew it was cancer, but I didn’t dream it was so far along,” Hughitt-Holden said.
The information Hughitt-Holden has picked up in nursing school has helped her since her diagnosis; being familiar with medical terminology has allowed her to better understand conversations with her physicians.
“I feel like if I didn’t have that knowledge, it would have been more difficult,” Hughitt-Holden said.
Hughitt-Holden said if she had one message to share in regard to her cancer diagnosis, it would be “Don’t wait.”
“You see something, you suspect something has changed, get it checked, immediately,” she said.
Hughitt-Holden was interested in nursing as a way to learn more about mental health.
“Once I got into school and started clinicals, mental health took a back seat to other interests,” she said.
She discovered an interest in pediatrics. However, her cancer diagnosis has uncovered a curiosity in oncology, particularly pediatric oncology.
Pediatric oncology centers around the child, but the parents need attention as well.
“That’s the good thing about a nursing career, it’s not uncommon to change specialties,” she said. “You could start off working in one field and move to another with little trouble.”