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A Personal Journey Through Breast Cancer

Category: Patient Stories
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Discovering a pea-sized lump in her breast wasn't part of Stephanie Fort-Medlin's plan, nor was the diagnosis of breast cancer. At age 50, the full-time elementary school teacher, wife and mother of two had none of the typical risk factors for breast cancer. Not only was Stephanie committed to daily exercise and good nutrition, she routinely received a clean bill of health at her regular checkups and annual mammograms. “I felt I was at the peak of health—literally the last person to be diagnosed with cancer,” Stephanie says.

Intensive intervention

When she called St. Luke’s Breast Center, she was immediately scheduled for a mammogram. Her results prompted a biopsy, which revealed breast cancer. The following week, Stephanie went in for a lumpectomy. After recovering from the surgery, she began a seven-week course of radiation therapy at St. Luke's Radiation Oncology Associates. “At times, I felt like I had an endless, exhausting case of ‘radiation flu,’” Stephanie says. “But throughout my treatment, the entire clinic staff went out of their way to help me feel as comfortable as possible, greeting me by name and taking care of whatever I needed.” On her last day of in-clinic treatment, the staff presented her with a special certificate and a handmade quilt.

Stephanie is now on a five-year course of cancer drug therapy. In addition, she is part of a 10-year clinical study through the Whiteside Institute for Clinical Research, which she hopes will eventually lead to a cure.

Ongoing support

Stephanie is also actively involved in St. Luke's Breast Cancer Support Group, a monthly group facilitated by a St. Luke's social worker and a nurse from St. Luke's Breast Center. “Everything shared with the group is kept strictly confidential, so we feel free to bring up some very personal issues,” she says. As a long-term member of the group, Stephanie offers hope and support to newly diagnosed breast cancer patients.

Living in gratitude

“It may sound odd, considering my diagnosis, but the months since my diagnosis have been full of wonderful growth experiences,” Stephanie says. “I am so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way: St. Luke's Regional Cancer Center, St. Luke’s Breast Center, my surgeon, internist, oncology and radiology teams, the volunteers and the strong, positive women in my support group.” Most of all, Stephanie sends a special shout-out to her terrific husband and kids.