One evening in September 2016 Charlotte Parrack was sitting in her car waiting for her daughter to get out of driver’s ed.
“I was just sitting there playing on my phone,” she remembers, “and I just reached up for no reason and felt this knot. I know that God did that for me. He was showing me I needed to check that out.”
That fateful day began the journey that would change Parrack’s life in many ways. Through tests and trials, medications and mastectomies, Parrack has relied on support from her family and her God to find a new appreciation of each day.
Parrack grew up in the Texas Panhandle following her father to various law enforcement jobs. “Being from the Panhandle, I joke and say that I was raised in a storm cellar,” she said.
After graduating from high school in Abilene and attending college, Parrack got a job as a dispatcher in Abilene where she met her now-husband, Roy, who served on the Abilene PD. Roy’s job took the couple to Brown County, where they’ve lived ever since. Roy serves as the county’s Constable for Precinct 3, and Charlotte sells Mary Kay products. Life was going more or less on schedule until that late-summer day.
“I called my doctor the very next morning, and she got my right in,” Parrack said. “We had an appointment at Baylor Scott & White by one o’clock that very same day. I credit God for helping me find [the tumor] myself, and I credit my doctors for acting very quickly.”
Parrack had mammograms and sonograms at Baylor Scott & White and found out that the cancer was not only in her right breast, where she’d found the lump, but in both. “We left there kind of in shock,” she said. Parrack began to research the disease — invasive ductal carcinoma —exhaustively. “To me, knowledge is power. I wanted to know everything about cancer.”
By the time Parrack had her double mastectomy on Oct. 11, 2016, it had been just over one month since she was diagnosed. “It’s just so fast,” she said. “You don’t have time to grieve the loss because in between there’s all this testing and needles and wires.”
But the diagnosis was not a complete shock — Parrack had a family history of breast cancer, and knew she was likely to face it at some point in her life. Faced with a series of tough decisions, Parrack opted quickly for the double mastectomy and decided against reconstructive surgery afterward.
“I’m perfectly comfortable living flat,” Parrack said. “I don’t think anybody ever notices, to be honest.” She also credits her extremely supportive husband with helping her “feel beautiful” again after the procedure. “He’s been my rock,” she said. “I don’t know if I could have gone through it without him.”
Roy Parrack said it’s been a whirlwind year for the rest of the family, too. “It’s different, but we try to carry on as normal,” he said. “I’ve picked up more of the load around the house with cooking and cleaning — not because she can’t, but because I don’t want her to. It’s scary because you don’t know if or when it’s going to come back. You just make the best of every day you can.”
Parrack now has a pink ribbon tattooed on her wrist to remind her of the reasons to be thankful and the battles not yet won. Through her scars and memories she will carry other reminders with her for the rest of her life, but she said it’s important to keep breast cancer in the public consciousness no matter how painful a subject it may be.
“If it saves one woman, it’s worth it,” she said. “I know women who don’t like all this Pink Out stuff, who think it’s too much. But I don’t mind it at all — it’s about saving lives.”
And she encouraged other women to be supportive, open and normal around their friends with breast cancer. “Just be their friend,” she said. “Breast cancer survivors have to find a new normal, because everything’s changed. But friends can be that support group and that pathway back to a fulfilled life.”