Podcast Episode 4: Like Mother, Like Daughter

Shelley knows breast cancer all too well. Her mom is a three-time breast cancer survivor. While most people get mammograms annually, she gets check-ups every six months and she believes that saved her life.

One visit she was cancer-free, the next she wasn’t. She was diagnosed with Stage One breast cancer.

“I caught it really early, but it was at a moderate growth. So it was growing faster. I'm so grateful, literally, so thankful and so grateful that I go every six months because had I gone just doing my annual just once a year, it could have gone into my lymph nodes or anything that really would have spread faster through my body,” said Shelley. 

Shelley said she is in the high-risk program at the CHI St. Vincent Breast Center. The program allows patients to get an MRI on top of the mammogram. 

Her mother’s diagnosis automatically put her into the program, especially because of her age. Her mom was first diagnosed with breast cancer at 43. Shelley was also diagnosed at 43.

“Same age. Same breast. Same type,” Shelley said about the diagnosis of herself and her mother. 

Shelley said oddly, she wasn’t scared. She knew she had support and she was more worried about her family than herself.

“I think it’s because I had seen my mother go through it and had seen other people and other friends actually go through the process. I knew this was not a death sentence, this was a process. So I think I had a little bit of a detachment to be honest, emotionally from it when I first got the news,” said Shelley.

From diagnosis to surgery, it was one month. She said because everything happened so fast, the emotion didn’t hit until later. However, she did experience gratefulness. Shelley said her care team was extraordinary and Dr. Sirinya Prasertvit, Breast Surgery, was very informative and supportive. 

“It really helped me to have comfort in knowing that I was in the best hands. This is a hard thing to go through, but the experience and working with my care team has been great,” said Shelley. 

Shelley had a bilateral mastectomy. She said because of that decision, she didn’t have to go through radiation or chemotherapy. However, Shelley did join a support group, and believes everyone that goes through this needs an outlet. 

“I think that was the biggest piece that I took away from so many groups and so many people, it's a shared emotion. We are not alone in feeling that way,” said Shelley, “The validation that comes from having that support is priceless. It really is priceless.”

Shelley said even though she had that support, after surgery, things became real. She said she constantly reminds herself that this is a process and her emotions are validated.

“I had to tell myself, Shelley, this is a grieving process. You lost something, you know, it's something that's been with you all your life kinda. So just accepting that and then giving yourself grace to feel what you feel,” said Shelley. 

Part of that process is losing a body part and deciding what was next, including reconstruction.

“I like having breasts,” Shelled said laughing. 

She said she didn’t want to wear prosthetics and she wanted to feel and look “normal” again in her clothes and swimsuits. That’s why she made the decision to meet with the plastic surgeon and get implants.

As Shelley continues her journey, she wants to remind other women that prevention is key. 

“Don't be afraid. Just go. It might just save you or someone you love,” said Shelley.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 8 women will face breast cancer in their lifetime. When detected early, the 5-year survival rate is 98%. 

With the latest 3D imaging systems, our patients receive the most detailed diagnostics possible with significantly less pain and discomfort. We encourage women age 40 and older to get an annual mammogram to screen for breast cancer.

Schedule your mammogram today!