“Cancer has always been a terrifying word with me,” said Dallas Sage.
With that in mind, Sage tries to provide a sense of normalcy to her young daughter, Madelyn, who was born last year shortly before Sage was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.
But the treatment and travel schedule Sage and her family have endured in the past 12 months has served as a constant threat to this carefully constructed normalcy.
Dallas Sage's story and others will be published Sunday, Oct. 8, in a special section devoted to breast cancer.
“I hope that my daughter never has to know what we’ve gone through,” Sage, 29, said. “I hope her life has been impacted the least.”
While Sage tries to shield her daughter from the worst that cancer brings, including frequent visits to a medical facility in Houston for treatment, family and friends step up to make sure little Madelyn remains her happy, joyful self.
“Leaving her behind has been really difficult,” Sage said. “But she’s in good care. I would never want her day to be spent in the hospital.”
And at the end of her most trying days, Sage looks to her daughter for the hope and inspiration she needs to carry on the battle against inflammatory breast cancer, which includes multiple rounds of chemotherapy.
“I want to see her grow up,” Sage said. “I want to see her future. It’s what gets me through all this.”
Since first telling her story in The Times in 2016, Sage said she has pushed through the ups and downs that often accompany a cancer diagnosis and corresponding treatment.
For example, complications delayed radiation and surgery and compelled Sage and her doctors to take a “more unconventional approach” in her treatment schedule.
Inflammatory breast cancer is a rare and aggressive type. The cancer cells 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.
Tweaking her chemotherapy has proved beneficial, with Sage receiving three clear scans now, allowing her to proceed with needed surgery and five weeks of radiation.
“Just because of how quick and how much area is affected, people don’t typically get to surgery,” Sage said.
Diagnosed before she turned 30 years old, Sage described the last year as a “very humbling experience.”
But the support of her church, the Hall County community, friends and family, and doctors and strangers has been uplifting, if also a
“Probably the most surprising thing was the outpouring of support,” Sage said. “It’s more than I could ever ask for.”
And Sage credits her husband, Chad, who she met while attending Chestatee High School and married four years ago, with being the rock in her family. He helps determine treatment decisions and navigates the logistical challenges of receiving treatment in Houston, as well as at the Northeast Georgia Diagnostic Clinic in Gainesville.
It’s not been easy for Sage to tell her story, but she’s finding meaning in the journey, too.
“I’m generally a very private person,” she said. “But as hard as that was for me, it was also a blessing.”
Sage said she has come to find purpose in her medical journey beyond what she ever expected to face. This includes raising awareness about inflammatory breast cancer and serving to give other women facing this disease hope for a better tomorrow.
“I knew when I was diagnosed with this that God had a purpose,” Sage said.