Breast cancer survivor says mammograms are key
Susan Stromberg is many things: mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. She is also a breast cancer survivor, and her message to other women is clear: Get your mammograms, and get them regularly. Early detection made all the difference in how her story turned out, and she’s the first to say it could have been very different had a friend not encouraged her to have that lifesaving test.
About this time last year, life was moving along smoothly for Stromberg. Between work and raising a young daughter, then 12, she admits that she’d let regular mammograms slip from her mind, until a friend, Holly Swann, had one and pushed her to follow suit.
“It had been seven years since I’d had one,” said Stromberg, who has lost two aunts to breast cancer. “I just got busy and didn’t really think about it.”
She had a routine mammogram in September 2016 and expected to get a letter in the mail in a few days telling her everything was fine. But instead, she got a phone call the following day asking her to come back in for a follow-up. At that point, she said, “I knew something was off.”
The next week, she had a biopsy, and within a few days doctors had broken the news: she had breast cancer.
“I felt like somebody had punched me in the stomach,” said Stromberg, who works in the medical field for a pathologist’s office. “I kind of knew because of what they had done (the biopsy), but you still hope for the best.”
From the time of her diagnosis, things moved quickly for Stromberg; she met with a surgeon to determine her treatment plan, ultimately deciding on a mastectomy rather than a lumpectomy and radiation. She was in surgery by the end of the month.
“I didn’t have time for radiation, with work and a child to take care of,” she said. “And with a family history, I decided that would be best. I just wanted (the cancer) gone, and never have to deal with it.”
Stromberg was fortunate in that her cancer was detected very early and had little time to grow. In fact, doctors told her it was just starting to develop when it showed up on the mammogram, and most of it was removed with the biopsy. “I really lucked out,” she said.
If she had one piece of advice to give other women, it would simply be to make mammograms a priority, no matter how busy life gets or how far from your mind breast cancer may be. “That’s what caught mine as early as it did,” she said.
See special section inside for more on Breast Cancer Awareness.