Working at Penrose-St. Francis Health Services for years, Sandy Weatherly has frequently participated in health fairs and clinics and has demonstrated proper self-breast exam techniques hundreds of times.
She’s also always been diligent about her health and faithfully undergone regular mammograms. But, after two previously negative biopsies, in October 2010 she was sure what she felt this time was more serious.
“I noticed a pea size lump and, after all the demonstrations I’ve done on mannequins, this lump just felt a little too familiar,” said the now 59 year old.
A dietician by training, Weatherly had always maintained a healthy diet and believed in regular exercise.
“When I found out I tested positive for cancer, I was shocked,” she said. “While healthy eating and staying active decrease cancer risk factors, in my case that was not enough to prevent breast cancer. The biggest risk factor was simply having breasts.”
Weatherly soon went through a diagnostic mammogram as well as an ultra-sound guided biopsy. Ultimately diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma, (IDC) she consulted with Dr. Toni Green-Cheatwood at Southern Colorado Breast Care Specialists and elected to have a bilateral mastectomy along with reconstruction.
“I didn’t want to go through radiation,” said Weatherly” and this was my third biopsy. I didn’t want to keep waiting for it to return.”
Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. It’s considered “invasive” because the cancer has “invaded” or spread to the surrounding breast tissues.
Because of her work experience with Penrose-St. Francis, and through the process of her own breast cancer encounter, Weatherly is proud to be key figure in the extended survivorship program at Penrose Cancer Center.
“I reach out to all cancer survivors,” she said. “I have some insight into the mindset and needs of cancer patients, and I can offer them support.
According to the American Cancer Society, there are now more than 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States. Once treatment has been completed, survivors need help coping with a variety of adjustments including physical, mental, social, emotional and spiritual changes.
“Helping survivors learn about life after cancer, including nutrition, exercise, and emotional health is very, very rewarding,” said Weatherly.