As Cherie Wilson enjoyed a family vacation to Disney World in 2012, she had not a care in the world.
Her two children were thrilled to be in Disney, her husband was happy to be on vacation and Wilson was relaxed, free from her daily routine of work and taking care of the family. The last thing on her mind was getting a mammogram. The mammogram, that was so far off in her mind, would later be called her lifesaver.
Wilson would have never guessed that one lump, one appointment, one test, would change her life forever. Two months after her sunny, relaxing vacation, she felt a large, hard lump in her breast. She immediately made an appointment for a mammogram, knowing that it was a way to learn if the lump was cancerous. The mammogram and a diagnostic MRI determined that Wilson had triple negative breast cancer – a fast growing, aggressive cancer. She was shocked, filled with emotion and defeated.
With support from her husband, her mother, a compassionate breast surgeon and an experienced oncologist, Wilson started to feel hopeful and optimistic. She had a plan: Fight this cancer and never look back. The fight would mean weeks of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy and radiation treatment. She kept her positive attitude and worked at her job as a hairdresser every day during her chemotherapy treatment, even up to the day before her double mastectomy. She got through her fight one day at a time. After her surgery, she decided to fight a new fight: Get women in the community to schedule their annual mammogram.
Every day, Wilson encourages women, age 40 and older, to get a mammogram. For friends, it is a daily reminder on her Facebook page about the importance of mammography. For her mom, the reminder is an extra push to get her mammogram, and of course, a buddy to go to the appointment with. After all, just one appointment saved her life, and could potentially save many others.
Although breast cancer cannot be prevented, early detection provides the greatest possibility of successful treatment. That is why it is so important to follow the three-step plan for preventative care:
- Routine Breast Self-Exam (BSE) – A woman should begin practicing breast self-examination by the age of 20 and continue the practice throughout her life – even during pregnancy and after menopause. BSE should be done regularly at the same time every month.
- Clinical Examination – A breast examination by a physician or nurse trained to evaluate breast problems should be part of a woman’s physical examination.
- Mammography – The American Cancer Society recommends that by age 40 women should have a screening mammogram every year.
Randi Russell is a marketing specialist for Ocean Medical Center and southern Ocean Medical Center, part of Meridian Health.
The Two River Times is once again a sponsor of Paint the Town Pink, a breast cancer awareness initiative sponsored by Meridian Health System. Additional information about Paint the Town Pink is available at www.PainttheTownPink.org.