Donna Elliff acknowledges that prior to her last, life-saving mammogram, she was like so many other women in regard to her breast health.
She’d occasionally complete self-checks, and sometimes get into the doctor — not every year though. Heading into her early 60s, however, she decided it was a good move to schedule an examination with Methodist Jennie Edmundson, even though she didn’t feel any lumps or irregularities.
In August 2019, through a mammogram a lump was found in one of Elliff’s breasts. It was still in Stage 1, but if she hadn’t made the decision to visit the hospital she said she fears the situation would have been much worse.
“I’m just so glad I went in, because they caught it early and it was curable,” Elliff said. “I still had to go through hell, but I’m still here, and that mammogram was so important because it was able to detect it and then I was able to treat it.
“So I am a huge advocate of having them done.”
During the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Jennie Ed representatives said they — and numerous other health care professionals around the country — noticed a decline in the number of women completing breast examinations.
Tammy Johnson, certified nurse navigator in the hospital’s Breast Health Center, noted how Elliff’s mammogram and quick results enabled the facility’s cancer team to take the fight to the disease. She encourages other women who haven’t had a recent mammogram, as well as those who have been irregular with examinations, to schedule an appointment to kick off the New Year on the right foot.
“I think we all need to get back on track a little bit,” Johnson said, referencing breast exams. “Everyone who comes in is screened with a temperature check and masks are required, so patients really can feel safe with coming in. They are only here briefly for the mammogram and more people are starting to do it again.”
This, she said, is reflected in the number of patients completing examinations and subsequently being referred to the Breast Health Center as a result of breast pain, irregularities and cancer, among other maladies.
Elliff was highly complimentary of the care she received during her time at Jennie Edmundson. On the campus, the 63 year old completed one surgery, two blood transfusions, 18 rounds of chemotherapy (at Heartland Oncology & Hematology) and 20 rounds of radiation.
In addition to outstanding care, Elliff was a recipient of Spirit of Courage funds through the Jennie Edmundson Foundation, which helped offset some of her medical expenses. That, she said, was a huge weight of off her family’s shoulders.
“Tammy Johnson at Jennie was wonderful, because you are so worried about the financial side of everything, plus your treatment — all that,” Elliff said. “She took the burden off of worrying about a lot of that stuff.”
In October 2020, Elliff completed her final round of chemotherapy and rang a symbolic bell marking the end of treatment. She said she will remain on a hormone blocker for at least seven years, but is confident that she’s put her cancer fully in the rear view.