A woman of lesser faith might’ve called it a coincidence, but Mica Pruitt says it was God’s sovereignty that led her to Tidelands Health Breast Center.
She had just changed her health insurance and was six months behind on her mammogram because her former gynecologist didn’t accept her new plan.
So when she found a lump during a self-exam, she ended up at the office of a new gynecologist who led her to Dr. Craig Brackett and the team of care providers at Tidelands Health.
That’s the way her God works, she says. The 60-year-old Surfside Beach woman says she was supposed to know the team at Tidelands Health, and they were supposed to be the ones to treat and eventually heal her.
Looking back at the days following her discovery in December 2017, she says she thinks she knew from the first time the pads of her fingers explored the malignancy in her breast that it was cancer. The tests that followed were just confirmation, she says.
Coincidentally, a woman from her Bible study was the technician performing the mammogram.
“She was real gentle and sweet, and she didn’t say anything, but I knew something was wrong,” she says.
Pruitt was scheduled for a needle biopsy just before Christmas, and that’s when she met the “confident and compassionate” Dr. Craig Brackett, she says.
“I really appreciate him,” she says. “He said (the lump) was not supposed to be here and it doesn’t look good. But he said he and God would take care of it, and I should go have a good Christmas.”
That was a tall order, and fear of the unknown hung in the holiday air. Pruitt and Wayne, her husband of 42 years, didn’t want to tell their three adult children their concerns until after Christmas. But she didn’t feel well, and when he asked what was wrong, she’d whisper to him, “I just have cancer,” she says.
On December 27, 2017, that fear was confirmed. Dr. Brackett used the paper lining of an exam table to draw out the steps of her treatment plan. She was in a daze but tried to follow along as he mapped out a course of chemotherapy, radiation and a lumpectomy.
She could’ve gone anywhere for treatment, but she had faith she was where she was supposed to be, she says.
“You hear about people flying off somewhere when they have cancer,” she says. “Indiana, Florida. But Dr. Brackett said he would take care of me, and I just trusted him, and he did.
“I didn’t need to stay in a hotel. I was five miles away from everything, but I was right where I was supposed to be.”
Dr. Brackett’s practice, Tidelands Health Breast Center, is the region’s only surgical practice dedicated solely to breast health. It is part of Tidelands Health Cancer Care Network, the most comprehensive provider of cancer care in the region and an affiliate of MUSC Health.
Pruitt’s treatment started that February, and she shaved her head the next month.
“I was holding my 6-week-old grandson and I looked down at his little body wrapped in a blankie and there was hair all over him,” she says. “I knew I had to shave my head.”
While she took her concerns to prayer, she was crushed to think about disintegrating in front of her family. Her father died of lung cancer at age 33.
“I cried a lot,” she says. “You sorta feel sorry for yourself sometimes. But I have a strong faith in one true, loving God. You move forward in faith even though you’re going through a difficult struggle.”
She was getting prayers from people she didn’t even know, she says. Every day when she went to the mailbox, there was a different letter of encouragement from friends near and far, she says.
Some of the treatment sessions lasted for hours. Wayne, a self-employed electrician, was by her side for all of them.
“One day, he stepped out for little while and when he was gone, it was like, ‘Where’s my buddy?’”
She was crying when he returned, and he asked her why.
“I said, ‘Because you left me,’” she says. “And the next time he needed to go to the bathroom, he just held it.”
Her husband is her most loyal friend, she says.
The final chemo treatment came in May, and the lumpectomy was performed the following month. After a yearlong journey, she’s now cancer free.
At Tidelands Health Breast Center, that calls for a rite of passage. Pruitt had heard other cancer survivors ring the bell that hangs in the office, and it was a source of hope and inspiration.
“I almost jerked it off the wall I was so happy,” she says. “You can hear it all over the building. It encourages you to know there’s an end to all of this stuff.”
Not everyone becomes cancer free, Pruitt says, so the upbeat spirit of the medical staff at Tidelands Health is a testament to the team’s strength.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like to deal with cancer all the time,” she says. “It seems like it would be so sad. But they really kept it upbeat and said the whole time they would take care of me. And they did.”
Oncologist Dr. Sara Adams was “sweet and observant,” as were the nursing staff and the phlebotomists Pruitt jokingly called “vampires,” she says.
“They’re champions,” she says. “They have the gift of mercy.”
Dr. Brackett recently removed the port that delivered Pruitt’s medication, and he told her he’ll see her next year for her mammogram.
“I was sorta sad, though the goal is for him not to see me,” she says. “I said, ‘Gosh, I’ll miss our talks.’”
Brackett says it was a pleasure to care for Pruitt; despite her being the patient, she was the one who’d frequently send uplifting texts to him and Dr. Adams.
“She is a woman of powerful faith and there was never any question in her mind who was in control,” he says. “I knew she’d be OK. She’s just a special lady. She was very kind and appreciative, and not all cases go that smoothly.”
Brackett says patients benefit from having a strong support system.
“The partners and husbands who come to every visit, at least you know there’s someone with them,” he says. “There are some people who’ve gotten divorced because (the cancer) affected their lives so much. The stress of it all can change you. Mica is stronger than when she went into it, but she’s still the same person.”
After completion of her successful treatment, Pruitt returned to her teaching job at Christian Academy of Myrtle Beach and continues to teach Bible study.