How important is an annual mammogram for women in the fight against breast cancer? Just ask Linda Myers.
The 62-year-old New Hope resident works at Educational Testing Services in Princeton, and the company arranges for a mobile mammogram service to visit the campus. Linda says she really had no excuse not to get the mammogram each year. So she faithfully had the screening annually. She had a couple “scares” with something suspicious showing up on the images before, but nothing that turned into anything. Until 2006.
Photograph by H. Scott Heist
The mammogram of her right breast showed a suspicious spot. She had a biopsy done at Doylestown Hospital. It was a Friday in April when she got the call from the doctor at the Women’s Diagnostic Center of Doylestown Hospital. “I knew it was bad news,” says Linda. “I just sort of sat there.”
Her treatment for breast cancer started with a lumpectomy performed by Bruce Derrick, MD. Lumpectomy is sometimes called “breast-conserving” surgery. The surgeon removes the breast tumor and some of the surrounding tissue. Dr. Derrick referred Linda to Mitchell Alden, DO, for the rest of her treatment.
Dr. Alden is Medical Director of The Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital. He explained to Linda the way they would treat her breast cancer and answered all her questions. “I could ask him anything,” says Linda. “He is one of the most knowledgeable people I’ve met.”
It was important to Linda to have her treatment close to home. She started chemotherapy at The Cancer Institute of Doylestown Hospital on June 1st coming in every two weeks for several hours at a time. Her next round of treatment brought her in to the Institute once a week for the rest of the year. She befriended Dot, another woman battling breast cancer, who became her “chemo buddy” and helped her through the process of undergoing treatments – “that was special,” Linda notes. The two still keep in touch.
Linda started to lose her hair as a result of the chemo treatments. “I was told that you’re never ready to lose your hair,” she says. But when she started to see the effects of the chemo on her hair, she was ready to have her head shaved. Linda attended a session of Look Good, Feel Better at The Cancer Institute. The free American Cancer Society program helps women cope with the side effects of treatment on hair, skin and nails. Linda was fitted for a wig. She stayed positive and had a lot of support from family and friends. During her treatments Linda would knit and look at the aquarium filled with tropical fish.
“At first people would say it’s not about losing your hair,” says Linda, “and it really isn’t.”
Linda got to know the staff at The Cancer Institute. She relied on them and her chemo buddy to help her through the difficult times. “Everybody was kind and gentle,” Linda says. “They were all good listeners.” Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. Linda remembers her first day of treatment and how one of the nurses, Kathy Fellenz, made her a sandwich and in turn, helped put her at ease. “I felt like I was enveloped in a positive atmosphere,” says Linda. “I can’t imagine any hospital having a better chemotherapy department.”
Linda finished her treatments in July 2007. She also had radiation therapy following the chemo. She continues to enjoy knitting and reading while she also is busy tending to her African violets and working in her garden. She’s also a painter who works in watercolors and oil. Today, she is cancer free and back to feeling one hundred percent.
“I’m lucky because they caught it early,” says Linda. “That mammogram probably saved my life.”