How Four SOMC Employees Are Spreading Stories Of Hope
In 2006, four employees at Southern Ohio Medical Center embarked on what would be the hardest journey of their life: the battle against breast cancer.
Three years later, each woman is cancer free and sharing their stories to provide inspiration and encouragement for those following in their footsteps.
Norma White, a purchasing analyst at the SOMC Cancer Center, first discovered a lump in her breast while at work. She let it go for week before visiting a doctor. “At 32 years old, and with no previous history of breast cancer, I didn’t think it was possible for me to have the disease,” she said. “I kept denying it, but finally realized it wasn’t worth putting off any longer—I needed to help myself get better.”
Within seven months of a lumpectomy, chemotherapy and multiple radiation treatments, Norma was officially declared cancer free. She now uses her experience to relate to first-time chemo patients, explaining that it may not be an easy road, but that they will see their old self again.
“Many cancer patients feel like they have to put their lives on hold, but they don’t,” she said. “I still exercised, went shopping and spent time with my family. My biggest goal was to put the treatments behind me and move on with my life. Now I can show my patients that it’s possible.”
After a routine mammogram, 51-year-old Carolyn McKinnon was told that she had a lump in her breast. Four days later, she was undergoing surgery.
“It all happened so fast that I barely had time to think about it,” she said. “I was definitely scared, but I also always had hope.”
Within 10 months of a partial mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Carolyn was cleared of cancer. She now uses her story to encourage others to not put off what they can do today.
“My experience made me realize that life is too short—you don’t get another time around,” she said. “I needed to accomplish all the things I said I wanted to do, but hadn’t; I have since gone back to school to become a nurse practitioner and I’m very happy with where I am in life.”
Wendi Waugh, director of the SOMC Cancer Center, was aware that there was a lump in her breast nearly five months before visiting her physician for an exam.
“I had an order for a mammogram, but held onto it because I hoped the lump would go away,” she said. “Unfortunately, I always knew in my heart that it wouldn’t disappear.”
A year and a half after her double mastectomy, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Wendi returned to her normal life without cancer. Her experience has helped her relate on a new level with her patients, creating a greater sense of compassion and understanding of their situations
“Breast cancer is a roller coaster ride: you don’t know where the loops are, but you can choose to experience the ride and learn from it,” she said. “I chose to learn and to take care of myself so that now I can take care of others.”
As a registered mammographer and advocate of the monthly self-breast exam, Noel Pemberton understood what avenues to take after finding a pea-sized lump in her breast.
“I immediately went to my doctor and scheduled a mammogram,” she said. “From the first image, we knew that it was cancer.”
A double mastectomy, eight chemo treatments, 38 radiation sessions and six months later, Noel was in the clear. She now sits with patients during their hour-long bone scans and encourages them by sharing her story.
“What better place can we be to touch patients?” she said. “I have bonded with so many people by sharing my experience and have made friends that I never would have met otherwise. Being able to inspire others through my own story is an amazing feeling and I’m truly blessed.”
October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Join the SOMC Cancer Center in celebrating by receiving your annual mammogram today and learning about the many ways that you can fight the disease. For more information or to schedule your appointment, please call (740) 356-7490 or visit them online at www.somccancer.org.