Breast cancer survivors tell stories
of compassion, strength and triumph
Each year, more than 30,000 women visit Huntsville Hospital’s Breast Center, making it the largest site for breast health in Alabama. Annual mammograms allow doctors to detect and diagnose breast cancer early, improving the patient’s odds of recovery. Each survivor is unique and has found her own voice and strength in the face of struggle. Here’s a glimpse into a few of their lives:
“I had no idea how strong I could be until I was faced with breast cancer.”
In 2004, Lindsey Davis was a 26-year-old wife, proud mother of a beautiful baby girl, caring and attentive nurse….and a breast-cancer patient.
Because it’s rare for breast cancer to attack women under 40, physicians don’t recommend annual mammograms for that age group but, instead, ask women to perform a self-exam once a month. That’s how Davis found a small, almost unnoticeable “hard place” that she thought was probably a blocked milk duct from when she was nursing her daughter. Following four months of tests, doctors diagnosed her with stage-3 breast cancer and immediately began an aggressive treatment program.
Davis underwent chemotherapy, radiation, biological therapy, a bilateral mastectomy and a total hysterectomy. She lost a lot of weight, all of her hair and both breasts, and was dealing with a health problem that usually affects women twice her age. But rather than allow herself to be the victim, she decided to be strong for the sake of her family.
“People take their cues from you, and when they saw that I was doing okay, smiling and going to work, they felt like everything was going to be fine,” said Davis. “I was determined not to cry in front of my husband, my child or my mom, because they needed me to be strong.”
That strength carried over into other parts of her life, and though she’d never choose to be sick again, Davis said she’s a better person now because of her battle with breast cancer.
“I wouldn’t go back to the old me for anything,” she said. “I’m more empathetic, more realistic, very passionate and bold – definitely bold.”
“I’m adamant about regular mammograms now and encourage my friends to get them annually.”
Mary Zeiders said she had a “lax” attitude about getting regular mammograms before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004 at the age of 62. Fortunately, the lump in her breast was fairly small; unfortunately, the cancer was very aggressive and growing rapidly.
Zeiders underwent a lumpectomy, radiation and chemotherapy and has now been cancer-free for about 2 ½ years, but she admits that she got lucky. If she had waited any longer for her mammogram, the cancer may have gotten out of control. Zeiders now shares her message about the importance of annual screenings to her friends and family in hopes more and more women will be proactive in the fight against breast cancer.
During treatment, Zeiders found comfort through a friend who was also battling breast cancer and from the resources offered at Huntsville Hospital’s Breast Center. She said her favorite tool was a notebook given to her by Certified Breast-Health Specialist Tameron Harvell, CRNP.
“Tameron is just a wonderful person. Being able to talk to someone in the medical field that knows your case and being able to call them anytime – that’s just priceless,” said Zeider. “And the notebook turned out to be really valuable. It kept everything – medication lists, charts, appointment sheets – in one place, and gave me a sense of control.”
She now makes similar notebooks for breast-cancer patients that live too far away to visit Huntsville Hospital’s Breast Center for support services.
“I was really healthy and didn’t have a family history of breast cancer, so the diagnosis came as a huge surprise.”
Susan Goodman was 41-years-old, an avid runner and biker and had no family history of breast cancer when a mammogram found a small lump in her breast.
“I was feeling really good about where I was health-wise and thought I was doing everything right,” said Goodman, now 46. “Plus, I had the misconception that people who got breast cancer had a family history of breast cancer, so I was completely shocked.”
Goodman thought like many women do – that if no one in your family had breast cancer, you didn’t smoke, you ate right and exercised and you breastfed your children, then you probably wouldn’t get breast cancer.
But in reality, 75 percent of breast cancer patients don’t have any known risks except for being women and getting older, said Breast Cancer Specialist Tameron Harvell.
Fortunately, Goodman was getting annual mammograms, and physicians found the lump early. Following two mastectomies at Huntsville Hospital and months of chemotherapy, she has been cancer-free for more than five years. Since her recovery, Goodman has been using her experience to reach out to breast-cancer patients and encourage others to support the cause.
She lost a friend this year to breast cancer, an experience that inspired her to create “Sweet Victory,” a painting of three survivors running across a finish line. The painting is being used as the artwork for this year’s Liz Hurley Breast Cancer Run.
In an effort to improve the odds for women diagnosed with breast cancer, her husband, Mike Goodman, has joined the Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s board of trustees.
“We’re just passionate about helping people through this and about our hospital having the latest resources,” said Susan Goodman. “We feel like we can’t do enough to help out the next group.”