Mammograms saved my life
After fighting breast cancer, Della is 100 percent positive the imaging helped save her life.
Della Burwell turned 55 years old before having a mammogram — but that’s not something she’s proud of.
“I always thought, ‘I’m fine. Nothing’s wrong. Why have one?’” Della said. “I guess I never learned the importance of mammograms or what that entailed. In my mind, I felt scared of them, but now the number of mammograms I’ve had is probably more than the amount I should have had up to the age of 55.”
According to the American Cancer Society, women between 40 and 44 years old with an average risk of breast cancer should have the choice to start mammography breast cancer screening once a year; and women between 45 and 49 years old should receive annual mammography screenings.
Mammograms: Tools to screen, diagnose and evaluate breast cancer
A curious pain radiated in Della’s right breast. It lasted an entire month and wouldn’t go away. The pain showed up in April, silenced during May and then came back, screaming with a vengeance, in June.
“I had a hard time sleeping because I couldn’t get comfortable. It hurt all the time. I really didn’t know what to do or who to go to,” Della said.
A co-worker recommended Dr. Stanton Bailey, who specializes in obstetrics and gynecology with MountainStar Medical Group in Brigham City.
“Dr. Bailey ordered my first mammogram, and I had only been back to work for 30 minutes after having that mammogram when they called and said they needed me to come in for a biopsy. My heart sank. I knew I had a problem,” Della said.
Brigham City Community Hospital: Providing hope and personalized care
Two days after the biopsy, Dr. Bailey gave Della an official diagnosis: stage two triple negative breast cancer.
“Dr. Bailey told me that this kind of cancer is very aggressive. He said it is the worst type of cancer you can get. I must have drawn the short straw,” Della said.
Only 10 to 15 percent of breast cancers are triple negative, meaning the cancer cells don’t have any of the receptors commonly found in breast cancer, making it difficult to treat. Plus, triple negative breast cancer is more likely to come back than other types of breast cancer.
Although the diagnosis came with heavy information, Della said Dr. Bailey provided hope by referring her to a team of surgeons, oncologists and radiation oncologists who would provide personalized treatment for her breast cancer.
For example, Della first went to see a general surgeon at Brigham City Community Hospital. He performed a lumpectomy to remove the two lumps stacked like a snowman in Della’s breast. Next, Della underwent 20 chemotherapy treatments and 28 days of radiation therapy.
“When I finished chemo and radiation, my numbers looked good, but after a while I had that same pain again. A scan showed that the cancer had spread into my lungs and in a lymph node in my neck. At that point, I had stage four cancer,” Della said.
Not giving up, Della underwent 10 more chemotherapy treatments to fight the spreading disease. The results? Della calls it a miracle.
“From a medical side, no one really knows how my stage four metastatic cancer is gone. From a religious standpoint, I think I’ve got something else to do here,” Della said.
“Mammograms saved my life”
Now, Della gets a mammogram every three months, along with other imaging, to ensure that there’s no sign of breast cancer. It’s been three years without a trace of the disease, leaving Della feeling inspired on multiple levels.
“Every time I wake up in the morning, I say thank you for another sunrise. And every night I’m thankful I lived to see another sunset,” Della said. “I’m also learning how to stay positive, and I’ve tried to reach out and bond with my family more.”
In addition to prioritizing positivity and family, she’s making sure to speak up about prioritizing personal health — especially getting mammograms.
“Even if you’re scared, talk with someone so you can learn about what to expect. It’s just a machine, and it really did save my life. I recommend going to talk with Bridgette, the mammographer at Brigham City Community Hospital — she’s gentle and kind and will walk you through everything!” Della said.
Annual screening mammograms are often covered at 100% under most insurance providers. To schedule a mammogram at Brigham City Community Hospital, call 435-734-4214.
“Even if you’re scared, talk with someone so you can learn about what to expect. It’s just a machine, and it really did save my life.” Della said.