Following a standard mammogram, women typically receive a letter in the mail informing them of their normal results. Michelle Fithen, 44, found it odd when she didn’t receive the familiar notice in the mail after her mammogram in early 2018.
“I have been getting mammograms since age 40,” Fithen explained. “I was thinking I would get my letter in the mail and on March 5, 2018, they called me to come in for a more detailed mammogram at BSA Harrington Breast Center.”
Several mammograms, ultrasounds and biopsies later, the mother of six received devastating news.
On March 16, 2018, Fithen was diagnosed with Stage 2 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Fithen had a 2 cm tumor in her left breast.
"In a way I was prepared because I had never got called back for those tests,” Fithen explained. “Part of me knew, so I wasn’t shocked. Because of my faith, I was very comforted. “
Fithen knew she was in the right place by her first visit at BSA Harrington Cancer Center.
“I knew immediately that everyone at BSA Harrington Cancer Center is kind, empathetic and positive. It’s a confident feeling to have as a cancer patient. No one necessarily wants to hear that they have cancer but I can’t imagine the process being any smoother than it was.”
Michelle was quickly introduced to BSA Harrington Breast Center Oncology Nurse Navigator, Betsy Weaver, who would guide her through her journey as well as her care team.
“Dr. Ravipati, Dr. Lary and Dr. Arsenault are extremely intelligent people,” Fithen said. “I remember when we all met, we talked through my diagnosis and by the time we left, had a treatment plan. I appreciated the fact we were not waiting for answers.”
Fithen was scheduled for a double mastectomy that spring. Following her surgery on May 7, 2018, Fithen received the unexpected news that her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes.
“We were hoping the mastectomy would be it and the cancer would be gone” Fithen shared. “It was disappointing, but I had full and complete trust in God.”
Fithen underwent 16 chemotherapy treatments in five months. She then received 25 radiation treatments.
“Chemo was definitely hard for me,” Fithen shared. “My first four treatments were every other week and those were hard. It wiped me out and I barely had any energy. During those five months I was horizontal more than vertical.”
Fithen hopes her story resonates with women.
“I don’t want to hide the fact cancer is a part of who I am because I think I can help people,” Fithen said. “If I learned anything from this experience, it taught me to not take anything for granted.”
Fithen encourages women who are diagnosed with breast cancer to follow this piece of advice:
“Gather your faith, stay on top of your health throughout your journey, take in all the help people offer, pray and find someone to talk to that has been through this or something similar.”
Now more than ever, Fithen is advocating for women age 40 and above to be screened for breast cancer annually.
“Cancer doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” Fithen said. “When you catch it early enough by preventive screenings, a lot of times you can treat it and live a long and healthy life. In the event my cancer ever came back, I would go back to BSA Harrington Cancer Center.”
To schedule a mammogram with BSA Harrington Breast Center, please call 806-356-1905.