During a special breakfast on October 24, NHC recognized the tremendous obstacles surmounted by the breast cancer survivors among its patient population. Linda Grace, Nadine Jamison and Esther Perry quietly shared their stories of survival that began this year for Grace and six years ago respectively for Jamison and Perry.
For Grace, she was laying in bed when she felt an abnormal growth. She took her concerns to Cindy Lauer, nurse practitioner and director of HSNHC's Women's Health Program, whom referred her to specialized care. Her treatment plan included a partial mastectomy, lump removals from her breasts, followed by eight weeks of chemotherapy and then eight weeks of radiation. "They say I'm cancer free. My mammogram was negative. That's where I'm at. I'm getting my appetite back and getting into myself again."
Jamison is a two-time survivor, receiving her diagnoses in 1994 and 2004. In 1994, her treatment consisted of six weeks of radiation. When her cancer returned in 2004, oncologists discovered a small mass the size of a tiny pinhead in one of the mammograms performed on her every six months since her first diagnosis. Her treatment plan continued over four years during her second care cycle. Ultimately, she and her providers opted for full mastectomies, the removal of all breast tissue, in 2008.
As a 30-year veteran-HSNHC patient, Perry had been going for yearly mammograms since the early 80's. At one of these mammography screenings, a lump was found in her breast, and thus began her journey to regain her health. Her story is very similar to that of her counterparts', with tough decisions about partial or full mastectomies made by her and her care team.
Once the survivors had taken the time to talk and help themselves to the fare offered at the event, Dr. Peter Johnson, medical director, welcomed them.
"I want to salute your strength and your life," Dr. Johnson said, before launching into a conversation with the ladies about how to increase the number of women in the community screened for breast cancer with mammograms. "How can we get other women to come in for their screening when they should? Early detection leads to better outcomes," he said. As answer, Jamison narrated the story of a family member whom resisted screenings for years believing "I'm okay if I say I'm okay."
Fellow survivor Grace said, "There should be more public service announcements stressing the importance of mammograms." Dr. Johnson offered for the ladies to continue their brainstorming through the formation of a survivor's group, which will engage in advocacy that encourages others into early detection. It is recommended that women age 40 and older have a mammogram every year.
This article was written for a health center's newsletter. Patient names changed to protect their identity.