Dallas Sage has the kind of hard-earned wisdom that can only come from direct experience.
“I keep telling myself it could be worse,” she said of her ongoing battle with cancer.
But there are days when Sage, 30, of Gainesville, would rather mask her reality and not be defined by her diagnosis.
Sage said she tries to avoid thinking about and discussing her condition as a way to emotionally cope. She tries to maintain a positive attitude and outlook instead of concentrating on the he cancer so that she doesn’t feel like she’s “living scan to scan.”
But reality is a harsh winter storm.
Since first telling her story in The Times in 2016, just after she was first diagnosed, Sage has weathered many trials and tests and treatments for inflammatory breast cancer. Hers is a rare and aggressive breed of cancer cells that block lymph vessels in the skin of the breast and can spread rapidly.
According to the National Cancer Institute, inflammatory breast cancer accounts for just 1 percent to 5 percent of all breast cancers in the United States.
For Sage, the rarity of her condition, and its advanced stage when she was first diagnosed, prompted an unconventional approach to treatment.
“I feel like a little bit of an experiment, since my treatment has been so unique,” she said. “The doctors didn’t want to give me false hope so they explained my disease as incurable.”
But remission is possible. So with regular chemotherapy, spurts of radiation and some surgery, Sage fought off the breast cancer, even after it spread to her skin.
That was a pretty unbearable time, she said. The radiation for her skin left her with second-degree burns, or worse, and made it nearly impossible to wear some clothes, to put on a seat belt in the car, or hold her daughter, Madelyn, who is now 2« years old.
But she persevered, and a few clear scans showing no signs of cancer had her hopes sky high.
Then, in May, “They found a spot on my lung,” Sage said.
The cancer had spread again.
“Hearing that it was back was definitely very hard,” she said. “But I know with the strength from God and constant support from my family and friends, I will get through it.”
She’ll find out in November when she travels to Houston, where she receives frequent treatment, if the radiation, which she described this time around as “a walk in the park,” has been effective in sending the cancer back into remission.
Until then, Sage fights for a sense of normalcy.
With her husband, Chad, who she met while attending Chestatee High School and married five years ago, Sage said she continues to try to limit the impact her cancer has on her daughter’s young life.
Madelyn attended her first Auburn football game recently, a point of pride for the doting parents who share a love for cheering on the Tigers, and she’s also now enrolled in gymnastics.
Last year, Sage told The Times, “Cancer has always been a terrifying word with me.”
And, yet, she continues to tell her story in the hopes that it will inspire someone else with cancer, or perhaps motivate others to donate to breast cancer research.
With her family, her community and her story, Sage carries on with a wisdom only matched by the strength of her faith.
Despite the toughest of circumstances, Sage said she feels such “grace and mercy” from God.