As someone who has been in the radiology industry for 43 years, I’ve seen my fair share of outcomes. Some good and some not so good. Many people ask me how I can handle the loss and still have such an optimistic view on the medical field. While this is a tough question, I always answer with ‘I’ve seen’.
I’ve seen what this terrible disease can do, but I’ve also seen how strong women can be. I’ve seen families crumble at losing their loved one, but I’ve also seen how it has brought them together. I’ve seen the strongest women fall, but I’ve also seen miracles. I am in awe every day how people handle cancer. It’s painful in every sense of the word, physically and emotionally. Yet, it makes me smile to witness something so dark overcome by their light.
Encouraging others to schedule an annual screening has been tough. There are countless of excuses. I don’t have time. If no one in my family had breast cancer, there is no way I do. Don’t women with large breasts have breast cancer? Mine are small. I would, but I don’t have enough money right now. I could go on and on.
Lyla, a mother of 3 boys, came into the practice one day because she had slipped on a skateboard her eldest left in the garage. She had to get an x-ray to make sure her wrist wasn’t broken. We got to talking and she revealed to me that she always hated going to the doctor, as it made her think about her mom who passed when she young. She had stage 3 breast cancer, and the doctors had caught it too late.
“It was the saddest moment of my life,” Lyla said. “One minute she was there being my mom and the next…gone.”
It shocked me to find out that she had never gotten a mammogram, though she was now 56 years old. She listed off the excuses - no time or money. Lyla explained that she had take off of work with a vacation day she didn’t have just to get this x-ray done. So, I made it my mission to make sure her three boys wouldn’t have to suffer Lyla’s same fate. I took down her information and where she worked. It wasn’t until three months later I saw her again on our mobile mammography bus right in the parking lot of her work’s building.
Most people don’t know this, but annual screenings are 100% covered by their insurance. If you’re in a demanding job and can’t afford to take a day off like Lyla, go to your human resources department and ask about scheduling a mobile mammography coach for its employees. It only takes 15 minutes or less to complete your examination.
Here are the facts you can give your employer. 1. One in eight women will develop breast cancer. 2. If breast cancer is discovered while it is still only in the breast, the rate of 5 year survival is 99%. The 10 year rate of survival is 83%. 3. It will cost the business nothing for us to come out, as insurance will cover the cost of the mammograms.
It is imperative that women over the age of 50 schedule an annual mammogram to ensure the best chance of survival. Lyla was called back by a radiologist who spotted a small tumor in her left breast. She had stage 1 cancer. Her worst nightmare come to life. However, after one year, Lyla is now cancer free. Though her boys still drive her crazy by leaving their things everywhere, she is very thankful for that skateboard.
I’ve seen too many women shrug off their annual mammogram and then it’s too late, but I’ve also seen these victories. I’ve seen happy endings. I’ve seen miracles. I’ve seen.
-Connie J. Marsh, RT(R)(M)(CT), ARDMS | Invision Diagnostics Leadership Team