Mary Olson is one of those very inspirational people. Mary is 52 and a Boise resident whos lived in our region for 25 years. Shes married with children and works as an assistant professor of management and MBA director at the George Fox University Boise Center.
Shes busy. Shes got a lot going on. Shes also got a very clear message for other busy women, one shes glad she heeded in September 2010: Get a mammogram.
I go in every year, and I almost canceled that appointment, thinking, Im so busy this week, I never have any issues, she recalls. Im just so thankful that I was diligent in following through. Im a poster child for having mammograms every year.
Irregularities led to a needle biopsy, conducted by St. Lukes Dr. James Maxwell. He talked me through what this could be, and he showed me what the films looked like.
Mary was diagnosed Oct. 1, 2010, with cancer in her right breast. She was stunned, confused and afraid.
Dr. Maxwell, the radiologist, was wonderful, she said. He called me initially with the diagnosis, and I took him up on his invitation to call him directly when I had questions about treatment options that were presented to me. Not only was he extremely knowledgeable, he was also incredibly kind. He made me feel as if I were his only patient.
Jill Winschell, the patient navigator, was just amazing. I was overwhelmed, and the emotional shock of having the cancer diagnosis ... She was a fabulous resource, especially at the beginning, to help determine the next steps. And I started feeling more peaceful about things. It was huge. It was just huge.
St. Lukes surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Betsy Livingston performed the mastectomy on Marys right breast about three weeks later. Mary says highly coordinated care and communication between all members of the medical team and other caregivers meant things moved at the rapid pace she wanted. It made all the difference.
I think that was helpful. Once I got that diagnosis, I just wanted to get that part over as soon as possible.
After the surgery, Mary worked with St. Lukes oncologist Dr. Paul Montgomery to design the right treatment plan for her.
It was important to me to do everything the doctors were recommending. I consulted with Dr. Montgomery, and he thought the prudent thing to do was six months of chemotherapy.
Chemotherapy is extremely tough, and the staff at St. Lukes Mountain States Tumor Institute (MSTI) understood that, Mary said. She still remembers compassionate staff members by name, and says the offers of blankets, ice chips and Popsicles during her treatments kept her going.
They just seem to recognize how youre feeling coming in there, she said. I didnt know who I was as a cancer patient. It just turns your world upside down. All of a sudden, there I was, with no control at all. The people at St. Lukes just seemed to know how I was feeling. They know youre scared to death.
The staff at MSTI made such a difference. I really just felt loved and cared for, she said. That loving environment made such a huge difference.
Mary decided to take advantage of resources available within St. Lukes Health System, including gentle yoga classes for cancer patients and survivors, massage therapy and consultations with dieticians. She had access to medical social workers and pharmacists who could answer her questions, and other experts were available as needed.
It was the whole integrated approach that St. Lukes takes, she said, noting that monthly massages really seemed to help me feel better and sleep better. Overall, I just wasnt as nauseous.
This was really one of the most difficult chapters of my life, and I wanted to take advantage of all the resources that were available to me, and that made a huge difference.
Marys treatments ended May 17, 2011, and she had breast reconstruction in July 2011. She will remain on tamoxifen, a medicine used to prevent and treat breast cancer, for several years, and has regular MRIs and mammograms, checking in with Dr. Montgomery regularly as well.
I feel like my care was provided by a network of people, of medical professionals, she said. I cant speak more highly of the care I received at MSTI and St. Lukes, from my very first day. Just from person to person, things were integrated very well.
From Cecil, the volunteer parking attendant at the front door at MSTI, to Heather, the receptionist who always remembered my name, to the massage therapist who sang hymns to me during my massage one day when I was feeling particularly discouraged it was this network of capable, loving care providers who created a silver lining to an otherwise very dark chapter of my life.
I knew I wasnt going through this alone.
Visit stlukesonline.org to learn more. For an appointment with St. Lukes mobile mammography, call 706-2055.