Breast cancer is the leading cancer affecting women. Nationally, approximately 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer in their lifetime.
In 2008, the number of breast cancer cases diagnosed in North Carolina was 5000. 411 of those were diagnosed here at Mission - here in WNC. Breast cancer is the most prevalent and leading type of cancer diagnosed at Mission. Our average is about 16.3 % whereas the average in NC is 12.4% and national average is 12.7%.
Breast cancer awareness, education, early prevention, and comprehensive services are an absolute necessity.
Mission's Breast Program is what we call a center without walls. It is a network of services and health professionals dedicated to supporting a woman through every step of the diagnosis, treatment, and recovery process. These services are people-intensive yet are not reimbursable through insurance. That is why we need partners in our community. Partners who understand the importance of this program and want to help ensure each and every woman faced with this disease has the services she needs to become a survivor.
We also need partners to help in the area of prevention and early detection. Properly treated localized breast cancer has a cure rate of greater than 95%, but cure rates drop off significantly when women present with more advanced disease. Annual mammograms and clinical breast exams, starting at age 40, are the best tools we have for detecting breast cancer early.
Obstacles such as lack of insurance and low income prevent many women from having an annual mammogram but we are working hard to change this and offer these women the access they need.
Through an initial grant awarded by Kate B. Reynolds Foundation, we created a program called Ladies Night Out which helps low income, uninsured women receive free breast screenings, mammograms and education. Last year, approximately 389 women participated in the program, and 15 of these women were diagnosed with breast cancer. This is 15 women, who without this program may not have caught their cancer in early stages when the treatment and outcomes are more favorable.
Your gifts can make a difference:
- $25 can provide a camisole
- $30 can provide a Survivor Resource Guide
- $150 can provide a mammogram to an uninsured woman
Donate now by clicking here, and under "designation" you will be able to choose Breast Cancer Program.
It was a shock when I heard the words breast cancer at age 39. No one in my immediate family had ever had this disease. The exact diagnosis was Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma, estrogen/progesterone negative, H2nu positive. This was a new chapter in my life, a life changing moment.
My life was moving along...my family settled in the mountains to be close to family in 1993. I was happily married, sharing my life with my husband of 11 years and a beautiful daughter getting ready to start kindergarten. I had moved into a successful advancement in sales at a local printing company. We had just finished a major house renovation and life was very good.
When I found the lump in my right breast I was so naive to cancer. I just thought my breast was sensitive and sore; could it be that I was expecting another baby? Maybe that is why I was so tender I thought. I called my doctor to set up an appointment and saw me right away.
The mammogram my doctor ordered (my first ever) looked more like a cyst I was told, but my doctor was not willing to let it go. I am thankful that he continued to manage my care and after a week with no change in the lump ordered an ultra sound and then a needle biopsy. His persistence saved my life.
I remember when I heard the word malignancy and questioned.....CANCER? My world stood still for a brief moment. Then what I call the rabbit chase started. Meetings with a surgeon, oncologist, and radiation oncologist and a pre-opt visit for surgery to learn all about anesthesia and such. It was during this stage that I was introduced to Mission Hospitals Breast Program. My surgeon set up a meeting with nurse navigator Denise Steuber. Denise met with me and my husband and explained what would happen at the hospital and talked about things I would be doing after surgery as well. She showed us pictures so that my first look in the mirror would not be so shocking. She delicately went over care and post opt procedures and exercises that would help me get me back to normal. They advised me in ways to talk to my young daughter about cancer that would not scare her, but would help her understand why Mommy was loosing her hair and why I had good days and bad days. But this was just the beginning.
The Breast Program offers support group meetings so that women going through this can meet other survivors and know that they are not alone. There is a wonderful boutique offering beautiful clothes that are made to fit our different shapes. Staff can help in fitting women for bras and prosthetics. They have hats and hairpieces that can be tried on in privacy instead of in front of a large audience at the mall.
During an unavoidable slight complication from a port I had received for chemotherapy, the staff at Missions Breast Program offered surprising support. When the nurse navigator heard my concern after a phone call, I was instructed to call my doctor and then let her know when I was being seen. I followed her instructions and was greeted at the doctor's office by the nurse navigator. She did not want me going through this alone. This was a comfort that words cannot describe.
After surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and very regular doctor's visits, I am celebrating 6 years of survivorship this June. I am healthy and strong and even though I try to encourage other women to do self breast exams, have regular mammograms,to recognize changes in their bodies, and raise breast cancer awareness, I have tried to not let this disease change who I am. I owe a huge thank you to Mission Hospitals Breast Program. They helped my family and me through a very difficult time and continue to be there for me today if I need them. They continue to let me know I am not alone.
I am now 45 years old. Cancer taught me to slow down, and smell the flowers. I changed careers to be on my daughter's schedule. I am the computer lab manager at her elementary school. My husband continues to be very supportive of anything I want to do raise Breast Cancer Awareness. My oldest sister was also diagnosed with breast cancer. She does not live in this area and sadly did not experience a "Breast Program" during her treatment.
I was 26 when diagnosed with Stage III Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with 2 positive lymph nodes, both in my chest wall.
Monday, May 12, 2008 was "Diagnosis Day" ( that's what I refer to it as). I was at work and since the doctor had called me, I was expecting oh, it's just a cyst, come into the office and we'll drain it. I thought at my age, it's just a cyst, there's no way it could be anything else. Then she started talking. I kind of zoned out and became numb when I heard these words: "Brandy, I hate to have to tell you this, but you're biopsy came back positive, you have breast cancer." My whole entire world froze and I completely lost it right there in the office. All I could do was cry and the first thing that came to my mind was my husband and my dog. I didn't want to leave them. I didn't want to leave anybody. I was so scared.
The next several days, weeks really, were the toughest. Several appointments, scans, tests, lab work; it seemed like it would never end. Denise, from the Breast Program, helped me get answers for questions I had, made sure I knew how things would go and which doctors I needed to see. Honestly, my mind and body were still numb to everything. I was just going through the motions.
Denise met with my family to discuss their concerns and questions. She had resources to help us all understand what was going to happen. There were all kinds of books and handouts, pictures and props. She was really able to put into perspective what things would be like for me over the next several months.
I started chemotherapy June 6. I had my mastectomies done October 14. Denise reminded me every day that things would be ok and that I could call her anytime I had questions. She came to see me after surgery and brought me the little pillows for my arms! Oh my, were those helpful! They were cute little pink pillows that went under my arms so that there was no pressure on my drain tubes or on my chest. Those things went everywhere with me!
I started radiation November 24 and finished radiation on January 14, two days after my 27th birthday. A birthday that 6 months prior, I never thought I would see.
Denise fit me with prosthetics and made me feel female again! That was a huge step towards realizing that this whole ordeal would soon come to an end.
I can't even begin to tell you what a valuable resource the Breast Program was to me. It gave me the opportunity to be taken care of and let someone else be my eyes and ears; to guide me and make sure that my care was at the level it was supposed to be. I hope that every woman with this terrible disease is given the opportunity to be helped at the Breast Center! I would have to say it's like having a tour guide, a concierge and caretaker all wrapped up in one.
During December 2009, Carol's family traveled to Asheville to celebrate
her 75th birthday. Carol's grandchildren were quite surprised and delighted
by the amount of snow blanketing Western North Carolina. "The grandchildren
have never seen so much snow having lived in warmer climates such as
Singapore, Jakarta, Scottsdale and Atlanta," remarkedCarol.
Six years ago one of the reasons we selected Asheville for our retirement home was because of the reputation of the health care system. Little did we know how soon I would test that system!
March 3 - 7, I received my five day, twice daily, radiation treatment. In just three weeks from the time I received my diagnosis, my treatment was concluded. That took a lot of cooperation from an outstanding medical community, to complete my treatment in such a short time. Considering that I had started with an ominous cancer diagnosis three weeks earlier, received personal phone calls at home from physicians who worked me into their busy schedules, my experience positively exceeded all expectations.
Everyone involved with my care was friendly, efficient and caring.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2007, at age 45. My first thought upon receiving my diagnosis was of my children -- would I see them grow up? The fear and anger that accompanied my diagnosis were overwhelming, and my desire to protect my son Colin, then age 5, and daughter Louise, then age 3, was intense. Aside from trying to absorb, understand and retain the medical and logistical aspects of my diagnosis and treatment plan, I was experiencing great emotional stress, loss of sleep and anxiety about what the next year and a half would look like; this period would include two surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and one year of Herceptin treatment. How would I do it, with two young children? Could I do it?
During the time I was meeting with my medical team, I also went to see Denise at Mission's Breast Program. I cried and she listened, honoring my feelings with sensitivity. The most important part of that meeting, however, was that when I left her office, I had hope. The ways in which she helps patients are myriad. Apart from the emotional component, she is available to discuss treatment options with patients at a juncture when timely decision making is essential, yet the information to be weighed is invariably overwhelming. A breast cancer diagnosis is comparable to being dropped into a new country not knowing the language or customs at all; however, the need to learn it quickly and well is urgent, as your future hinges on you mastering the language of this disease to survive it.
The Breast Program provides important practical services that newly diagnosed women and women who have undergone mastectomies need. For example, Denise helped me with products that made my post-surgery experience more comfortable; she compassionately fits women with mastectomy bras, bathing suits and breast prostheses. She visits patients in the hospital after surgery, which is an emotionally raw and physically uncomfortable time.
I also feel that my treatment was enhanced by the fact that Denise was in communication with my team of physicians. She participated in the weekly breast cancer roundtable meetings held by breast cancer oncologists, radiation physicians and surgeons, where each case was discussed individually. This is critical because, as I understand it, the approach to treating breast cancer has changed radically over the past 20 years, and one of the most important discoveries has been that breast cancer is not one disease, but many; research is progressing more quickly than ever before by creating a treatment model that recognizes the particulars of a woman's genes, hormone status, age, lifestyle and other factors.
I am almost one year past the completion of my treatment, and feeling stronger every day. My husband and children are thriving, I am here to enjoy it and I am thankful for this every day.
I was 56 yrs old when diagnosed with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. ( DCIS ) I am 58 yrs old now. Married to my husband Bennie for 40 yrs. We have three beautiful, wonderful, talented daughters. Four precious granddaughters and two precious great grandchildren. I'm a Documentation Analyst for STG INC. at the National Climatic Data Center, located in the Federal Building in downtown Asheville and have lived in the Asheville area for 20 yrs.
Feelings when diagnosed included anxiety, stress and fear. After losing a younger sister to breast cancer in 2005, and repeat mammograms and ultrasounds on left breasts, I requested an MRI in the fall of 2007, which indicted an abnormality on the right breast, after a second right breast ultrasound and MRI - guided right core needle biopsy, resulting in a diagnosis of " papilloma", was recommended and had an excisional biopsy, which resulted in Ductal Carcinoma In Situ diagnosis, was followed by reexcision for close margins. I had a simple mastectomy in May 2008.
I can't say enough about the breast program, it is wonderful!, it made a difference knowing that there is someone who truly cares and that they are there for you. And most of all that I knew and felt that she wanted to be there!