Faith in God and her strong family ties have gotten Cathy through life, never so much as recently during her battles with breast cancer.
In her heart, McAlpine said, God will never give her more than she can handle, so when she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis more than 30 years ago, she questioned why but decided He knew best. When she was diagnosed with breast cancer around Mother’s Day 2015, it was difficult to accept, but she was up for the challenge. The same was true for her second diagnosis of breast cancer, as well.
McAlpine, 57, worked in Canton City Schools as director of Project Wheelbarrow, a mentoring program for at-risk children, and as a reading specialist for STARS, a reading program for elementary school children for 15 years. She also served as events coordinator for the Canton Negro Oldtimers Club where she met the people from the Mercy Cancer Center. At the time, she had no idea they would be helping her someday.
Religion always has been a big part of her life. Her father was pastor of Second Baptist Church in Alliance. She and her husband, Jeff, are members of Union Baptist Church in Canton.
McAlpine did not feel any lumps in her breasts before her diagnosis either time. Instead, she had spots. Lots and lots of spots.
“I had a cluster of spots in my left breast, and after a number of biopsies and other tests, the doctor gave me choices,” she said, noting she already had made up her mind. “I thought, ‘I already have MS, how in the world can I have breast cancer, too?’ I turned to the Scriptures and my family for peace of mind.”
McAlpine said when she was diagnosed in 2015, she told only her husband of 33 years, her children, Gemayel (Sidney), Germaine, Justin and DeJahlyn, and a couple others.
“My husband was very supportive. He said, ‘We’ve been through MS. We can do this.’ I did not tell anyone else because I did not want others to tell me what I should or should not do. I was not ashamed about the cancer, but it was my time to pray to God and come to grips with the disease myself. I prayed about it. I was scared.”
“My father always said, ‘I can do all things through Christ that strengthens me,’ ” said McAlpine. “It is Scripture, Philippians 4:13.”
Her grandmother always said, “You have to have the faith of a mustard seed” to go through life.
These are the Scriptures and similar ones that McAlpine turned to, to help her through her two bouts of breast cancer. Scriptures and her immediate family.
“My husband and I had already decided what we were going to do. I clearly wanted a mastectomy.”
When the spots appeared in her right breast, she told them to remove that one too, saying she was not going to live her life watching spots.
EXPERIENCE AT MERCY
“I had a great team of doctors,” she said. “I felt very comfortable with them, and I trusted them. That is so important. You have to have a great team of doctors that you feel comfortable with and feel supported by.”
“I wish every woman would get a mammogram and go to the doctor,” she said. “You don’t have to have lumps. Don’t wait for a lump. Have your mammograms done. Minority women especially. Breast cancer is not a death sentence, but you cannot sit back and ignore it.”