Friends, family, faith key to Albany native’s breast cancer recovery
On Jan. 4, 2019, Charlotte Pines’ family had just returned from celebrating Christmas and New Year’s in Atlanta. Having made a resolution to improve her health, she was planning to do a “girl’s push-up,” as she calls it, with her knees on the floor.
“My other son challenged me to do a regular push-up,” she said. “When I got up, my breast was hard. I said maybe I should check it out. As I rubbed my hand on the side of my breast, I felt a bump.”
Pines’ mother, Barbara Clark, examined the breast and thought it was probably nothing, but advised her daughter to get it checked out. Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital scheduled a biopsy and, after examining it, came back with the verdict for the mother of two adult sons.
“On Feb. 12 I got the results that I have triple-negative breast cancer and it was stage 2b,” she said. “It’s one of the most aggressive types of breast cancer, and it was (already) in one of my lymph nodes.
“Perception is my main motto. After I called my husband to tell him the diagnosis, my friend and I went to get lunch. I knew this wasn’t the end.”
At the time, Pines’ life seemed to be on an upward trajectory: The Albany native had recently gotten married and moved with her husband, James, to Americus, where she had plans to open the Salon Thirty:Seventeen. She also had a job teaching cosmetology at South Georgia Technical College.
Despite the grim diagnosis, she continued teaching and planning for her business.
“That same month, in February, I signed the lease,” for the shop, she said. “I didn’t stop. I just said I’ll work through this. I just knew God had not given me these plans and dreams for me to die.”
The 52-year-old worked through her treatment and set up her shop.
“I know that sounds corny, but my husband’s faith was that strong,” she said. “He made the payments and said ‘after all this you are going to be in your salon.’
“My students were just so amazed I would come to work every day even though I was doing chemotherapy.”
Pines was no stranger to phenomenal medical recoveries; her sons had both had accidents that caused traumatic brain injury, and for one the return to normalcy was a long process.
She finished chemotherapy on June 19, 2019, had a lumpectomy on Aug. 10 and started radiation in October. All of her cancer treatment was conducted at the Phoebe Sumter Medical Center.
The radiation treatments caused extreme fatigue, and the cosmetologist lost her hair temporarily.
“It was literally hard to put one leg into a pair of pants,” she said. “You just have to keep believing you’re going to win this fight.”
Throughout those ordeals, Pines said her faith, including early-morning Bible-reading sessions led by her sister, Althea Penn, kept her positive.
“Breast cancer is terrible,” she said, “but you can make it through it. Just put your faith in God. The perception is you take everything that was meant for evil and make it good. Just to know your good days are going to outweigh your bad days.”
Having been through the worst in 2019, Pines was looking forward to setting her plans in motion.
“When I was finished with all of my treatments, it was in February of 2020, just when I thought I was going to be able to go back in the salon and I was feeling better,” she said.
A month later the COVID-19 pandemic struck and salons were among the businesses shut down. Pines took that time as an opportunity to get a degree in business management.
Pines, now 54, made it through that crisis as well, and she works at her shop now as well as serving as parent facilitator at Lamar Reese Magnet School of the Arts in Albany.
She credits her ability to make it through cancer to pastor Bud Womack at Life Point Church in Americus and the Life Point Ministry members who brought her food and shopped for her when she was at her worst, as well as her friends and family.
“My main point I would want people to understand is to walk in love and perception is everything, not getting angry, having a goal and a positive attitude,” she said. “Stress is another thing; it prolongs the process of you getting well.”
Since her recovery, Pines has participated in Pink Walk events during Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, and this week she will be a presenter at a women’s health fair in Albany hosted by Phoebe.