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In the first article
of our breast cancer survivor series, I mentioned I received a request from an employee to write about breast cancer survivors during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month
. I also mentioned you would meet the person who made the suggestion in a future article. Today’s profile in courage is about that employee. Thanks Sharon, for recommending this series.
Here’s Sharon’s story:
Several years ago, Sharon Hagins, operations manager, strategic provider services, learned she had a lump in her breast. To her relief, it turned out to be dense tissue. Since women with dense breast tissue are at a higher risk for breast cancer, she had a check-up and a mammogram every six months for the next four years, from age 41 until she was 44. Since there was no recurrence or other changes, her doctors let her go back to an annual mammogram schedule. For the next seven years, her mammogram came back normal—that is, until this year, when she received a letter with one word that stood out: abnormal.
After a needle biopsy, she was told there was cancer inside the ducts of her left breast and she was being sent for a surgery consultation.
“I wasn’t shocked or even upset,” recalled Hagins. “I was very sure of what I needed to do, which was to remain calm, get all the information available to me and make the best decisions about treatment.”
Because Hagins’ cancer was caught so early, it was considered stage zero, was very treatable, and she was given a 99.9 percent survival rating. Hagins calls it “the best bad news I could get.”
Even though the cancer was caught early, she still had surgery ahead of her. To prepare, she began what she calls “Breast Cancer 101” at Mayo Clinic. There she had meetings with every doctor she would see during her treatment. She got a binder full of information about the different options for surgery, including lumpectomy and mastectomy, as well as possible required therapies, like radiation and chemotherapy. She armed herself with knowledge –she became a warrior.
As the t-shirt in her selfie attests, ‘Breast cancer picked a fight with the wrong chick.’
“My first instinct was to have a double mastectomy,” said Hagins. “I wanted to remove any chances of a recurrence and was ready to just let them go. But after speaking with the doctors at Mayo, weighing in all the statistics about recurrence, and taking into account the pain and additional surgeries involved with reconstruction, l decided to have a lumpectomy.”
During the procedure, surgeons found three tumors in Hagins’ breast, totaling 4.6 centimeters in size. The good news was that the findings did not require chemotherapy or hormone replacement therapy, but she would undergo six weeks of radiation.
Hagins’ surgery was only a few weeks ago – on Sept. 25. –but you would never know she’s in the middle of treatment. The only sign that she might be a breast cancer survivor are the tiny breast cancer ribbons painted on her pink toenails.
“I feel a little sore, and I still have the radiation ahead of me,” she said. “But I’m so lucky. If I had skipped getting a mammogram this year, the cancer could have increased two to three times in size by next year and the outcome could have been much, much different.
Hagins hopes her story will encourage other women to schedule their mammograms and be vigilant with their breast health.
“Get mammograms, know the risk factors and don’t rely on family history alone. There was no history of breast cancer in my family. In fact, only 10 percent of women diagnosed with breast cancer have a family history of the disease.”
Have you scheduled your mammogram
for this year? The St. Vincent’s Mobile Mammography bus will be back on the Deerwood Campus Complex Dec. 17 - 19. To schedule an appointment, call 904-308-5360