When it comes to her health, Ervena Faulkner has always been one to follow doctor’s orders. Each year, she has dutifully gone in for her mammogram at Beaufort Memorial Breast Health Center, and always was happy to learn she had negative results.
But in February 2014, instead of the usual “see you next year” send-off, the mammographer told her the X-ray had revealed a suspicious lesion in her right breast. “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing,” says the Port Royal resident. “No one in my family has ever had any kind of cancer.”
A biopsy confirmed she had estrogen-positive ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), the most common type of noninvasive breast cancer. While it isn’t life threatening, DCIS can increase the risk of developing an invasive breast cancer. “It sounds like a death sentence when you’re told you have cancer,” says Ervena, a retired Beaufort educator and avid traveler.
Confused and nervous about the diagnosis, Ervena asked the center’s breast nurse navigator if she could come into the office to talk in person. Within days, she also met with BMH general surgeon Deanna Mansker, M.D., and medical oncologist Majd Chahin, M.D. Her treatment plan included a lumpectomy, followed by five years on the antihormone drug tamoxifen. “Over time, the drug changes the environment in the body to become hostile to the development of another cancer,” Chahin says. “It reduces the risk by 50 percent.”
The breast nurse navigator accompanied Ervena to all of her appointments to offer support and serve as her advocate. “If something was said she thought I didn’t understand, she would explain it to me,” Ervena says. “She was very helpful.”
Ervena joined Beaufort Memorial’s breast cancer support group, where she met other breast cancer patients and learned more about the recovery process. “I was surprised to see so many people I knew,” Ervena says. “I realized I wasn’t alone.”
Free cancer services include:
- Consultation with an outpatient care coordinator who can direct patients to the resources they need, including financial assistance and transportation.
- An appointment with a physical therapist for patients having mastectomies to assess their risk of lymphedema and teach them exercises that can help them heal more quickly. Lymphedema is swelling of the arms or legs that can be caused by damage to the lymph nodes during cancer treatment.
- A free three-month membership to LifeFit Wellness Center.
Now back in good health, Ervena has resumed her favorite hobbies. Her latest project is making pillows out of fabrics she brought back from her travels to Africa and a quilt that features family members’ exquisite hand embroidery. “If I had to slow down,” Ervena says, “I don’t know what I’d do.”
Need a medical oncologist? Call Majd Chahin, M.D., of Beaufort Memorial Medical Oncology at 843-521-9879 or Marcus Newberry III, M.D., of Beaufort Memorial Oncology Specialists at 843-522-7350.
Photo courtesy of Winter 2016 issue of Living Well.