Millington stylist’s hair observation points to breast cancer diagnosis

Vanessa Greenwood-Fiene. Photos by Thomas Sellers Jr.

Women over the age of 40 are encouraged to get a mammogram annually.

Something that most women do a few times throughout the year helped detect Vanessa Greenwood-Fiene’s breast cancer.

Once again Fiene made her trip up to the This Is It Salon at 80 Logan Drive No. B in Covington. Just like normal, she hopped in the seat for beautician Lori Harrod. Harrod noticed something different about Vanessa that January day. It wasn’t her recent marriage the previous summer to Jeffrey Fiene.

“I went to the doctor in January for a routine checkup,” Fiene recalled. “Never had the first problem. What led me to go to the doctor was my hairdresser. She told me that there was just something wrong about my hair. She said it just felt funny because she had been doing it for years. She was like, ‘I think you have a thyroid problem.’”

Fiene, 48, admitted she had been neglecting her visits to the doctor. But the mother of 20-year-old Tyler Greenwood and 11-year-old stepdaughter Aleeah Fiene took her beautician’s concern seriously.

“I went for a routine check up and then got a letter in the mail that said, ‘Something is not right. Let’s do digital imagery,’” Fiene said. “I went to the hospital and got the imagery done. They said there is still something not right. They sent me next door for an ultrasound. The doctor read it right then and said something looks suspicious. Let’s do a biopsy. But still even at that time I thought it was just something we have to do a little more.”

While undergoing test after test, Fiene was also dealing with another family issue during the winter.

“Unfortunately, my mother was real sick at the time,” she recalled. “My Mom (Glynda Young) passed away on March 17. We had visitation, and that morning I went for my biopsy. I never told my Mom. I didn’t want her to know. I didn’t want her to worry about it.”

Losing her mother before taking on the battle of her life, Fiene didn’t have to look far for a support group. Jeffrey and the children were there. She also turned to her sister and family leader Deborah Kirchoff.

Vanessa Greenwood-Fiene said the support of her colleagues at the City of Millington helped her fight against her Breast Cancer throughout 2018.

Then when the accounting coordinator for the City of Millington arrived to work, colleagues and city leaders like John Trusty, Ed Haley and so many more were there for emotional support.

Fiene was given pink rubber bands for her wrist by colleague Robbie Colbert. Working for the City of Millington since May 2000, Fiene has formed several friendships that helped her endure the battle against the cancer.

“I just gained strength from my friends,” she said. “And I have a sister that’s like the matriarch of the family. I’ve always bounced stuff off of her. Karen Craig at the Police Department has been a tremendous help to me. She’s been there and done that. She helped me out a lot.”

Craig’s rubber band was a symbol of strength encouragement for Fiene. Craig also shared her journey in overcoming her battle with breast cancer.

About a week after laying her mother to rest, it was time for Fiene to embark on her life-saving journey. She had her biopsy and on March 23 while she was sitting at work, her doctor called. The voice on the other end of the phone declared she officially had breast cancer.

“My whole world just fell apart,” Fiene acknowledged. “You hear the word ‘cancer’ and it just scares you to death. But through the grace of God, I faced it head on and did the best I could with what I had. I went for a lumpectomy on April 10.”

After the lumpectomy, the procedure left complications. Fiene faced a tough decision, leading to multiple discussions with her doctors about the next step to remove the tumor. The next step for Fiene was a double mastectomy.

Diagnosed with Stage One T2 cancer (mucinous colloid carcinoma), Fiene found peace of mind with her double mastectomy. The procedure located another tumor.

“Surgery was successful,” Fiene said. “I am 100 percent cancer free. Here I am. Now I’ve chosen to go the reconstructive route. I had to consult with a plastic surgeon.”

Fiene’s new doctor will be Cedric Hunter from Chicago. Dr. Hunter is of the UT-Medical Group and will be performing the surgery at Methodist University on Oct. 30.

Fiene didn’t need chemotherapy or radiation. But the 1988 graduate of Millington Central High School knows her fight continues.

“I feel good, but I do get a little tired,” she said. “I had to start a new medicine for five years. Other than that, I am hanging in there.”

Now a part of the sisterhood who has battled breast cancer, Fiene feels blessed to have an alert and caring hair designer.

“I am very thankful for her,” she concluded. “I wouldn’t have dreamt it.”