The Gazette is partnering with title sponsor Penrose-St. Francis Breast Care Center and ribbon sponsor Peak Vista Community Health Centers to bring you inspiring stories of local breast cancer survivors and a behind-the-scenes look at the care process from physicians, surgeons, nurses and volunteers throughout October.
Growing up, Linda Sanders saw physicians detect tumors in her mother’s breasts multiple times. Thankfully, each tumor was benign, but the memories left an impression, and Sanders has been faithful when it comes to her own self breast exams and mammograms from a young age.
Though a recent mammogram had shown nothing suspicious, Sanders detected a lump in her right breast in December 2013, and immediately knew it was out of place. “The stars were aligned, and I had a mammogram, a second mammogram and an ultrasound in the same day,” she said. “The radiologist scheduled a biopsy, but was confident that it was cancer.”
After her biopsy confirmed the tumor was cancerous, 53-year-old Sanders turned to those closest to her for support. “I am very blessed to have so much family around me,” she said. “My daughter, son, mother and even my brothers and my boyfriend were there to give me love and support. They all said they wished they’d known from the start of the process so they could have been there to support me in each step.”
But Sanders was no stranger to battling cancer: she had lost her father to his battle with bladder cancer, and remembered the positive attitude he had maintained through his cancer journey. “I always thought that if I ever had to go through something like that, I would be a good role model for others, to alleviate some fear and let them know it’s all going to be OK,” she said.
Armed with the support of her family and a hopeful outlook, Sanders chose to undergo a bilateral mastectomy at Penrose Cancer Center, in hopes it would halt the spread of cancer throughout her body. “From the start, everyone at Penrose was so sweet and so protective,” she said. “It was very encouraging and made the whole experience more comfortable.” Penrose Cancer Center is part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas.
Sanders also underwent genetic testing to see if she risked developing more breast or ovarian cancer. When the tests disclosed she was not a carrier of the breast cancer gene, she was relieved. “The happy tears were uncontrollable,” she said. Sanders has also fought to maintain her reinvigorated optimism. “I have had way more good come out of all of this and I look at life differently every day because of it.”