Make the Time: Gayle's Story

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Breast Cancer

Despite regular self exams, and no family history of breast cancer, Gayle Hemberger-Lee received the unexpected diagnosis of cancer. Gayle shares the story of how she was diagnosed because she hopes other women will learn from the experience.


I went in for my yearly physical with my primary care physician, Dr. Betsy Trowbridge. While there, I was given the mammography pamphlet and was told to call and set up an appointment because my last mammogram was in 2003.

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I had every intention of calling but threw it on the table when I got home. Basically, it was thrown to the wayside. I was busy and just figured that it didn't matter because I do not have a family history and I always do monthly self breast exam and never feel anything. Plus my doctor didn't feel anything at my physical.


Not long after my physical I received a call from the nurse at my primary care physician's office stating that they had set up a mammogram appointment for me. Dr. Trowbridge felt that I was not getting the total care necessary if I didn't get it done. So I went.


The same day that I got my mammogram I got a call that I needed to come back in. I was not worried because I thought it was scar tissue that was being viewed, as has happened in the past. During the second mammogram they saw something suspicious on the right side so a biopsy was set up for a couple of days later.


The day after the biopsy, April 15, 2010, I received a call back that it was cancer and a pre-surgery appointment was set up. The surgeon explained all of my options very clearly and I decided on a double mastectomy. On May 10, 2010 I had the surgery.


Staying Positive


I began chemo on June 9, 2010. The first part was a piece of cake and the nausea medication did the trick. Unfortunately, my body did not do well with the second part of chemo and I had to spend some additional time in the hospital, delaying some of my treatments.


Dr. Bradley Manning is my plastic surgeon. He is great and gives me all the time I need and explains everything so well. He too is a part of the recovery program. Unfortunately, problems have occurred because of the expanders for the breast implants, requiring multiple surgeries. I am okay, but in a lot of pain. But I am still positive.


I have actually kept a positive attitude through the whole thing. I have a good social and clinical support group that has helped me. My health care team is great. They have always listened to me and what I wanted and why I wanted it. They put me at ease.


My cancer doctors are wonderful and at each of my appointments they gave me all the time that I needed. They did not rush me. They explained things in a way that I could understand and answered all of my questions.


Don't Think it Can't Happen


I want other women to learn from my experience. I felt like I was too busy to get in for my mammogram, as a lot of women feel. But I would tell them they need to make the time. It is important so that you can ensure that you will be there for your family. Don't think it can't happen to you.


If you are afraid of the mammography screening just because it is a little uncomfortable, there are a lot worse procedures. Like the procedures that I have gone through since my diagnosis.


I did self breast exams every month and never felt anything. It doesn't mean that there is nothing there. It could be in a place that you can not feel. I hope this helps at least one person make the choice to have their mammogram done in a timely manner. Don't think it can't happen to you.