I came to Bronson because I knew I would receive the best treatment and the best care.
It was Thanksgiving Day in 2008 and Susan was preparing for a day full of family, food and festivities. While getting ready, she did a self-breast exam and felt a lump in her breast the size of a walnut. Knowing how important it is to get checked, Susan contacted her primary care provider that Monday to schedule a mammogram and a sonogram. That Friday, breast surgeon, Dr. Nancy Kalinowski, did a biopsy on the mass. The pathology report came back positive that Susan had cancer.
“I came to Bronson because I knew I would receive the best treatment and the best care. The nurses are so compassionate and caring,” Susan says.
Within two weeks of the pathology report, Dr. Kalinowski performed a lumpectomy, which is the removal of the mass itself. She also removed 29 lymph nodes, with five of them testing positive for cancer, indicating the cancer had progressed.
Throughout her treatment, Susan had the help of a nurse navigator, Kelly. “Kelly was a lifesaver for me,” Susan explains. “She coordinated appointments, helped with insurance and navigated me through the whole system.”
The next step for Susan was to go to the West Michigan Cancer Center for twenty weeks of chemotherapy and seven weeks of radiation. After her treatment was complete, she was able to start recovering physically, mentally and emotionally. Susan continued to go for lab tests and her biannual mammogram since there was still a chance she could get cancer again.
In 2012, Susan had a mammogram and they found a suspicious cluster of cells. “After losing my husband in 2010, I knew I needed to be around for my family,” Susan explained. Without a second thought, she made an appointment with Dr. Kalinowski and had a double mastectomy. She then received breast reconstruction from Dr. Steven Nitsch.
Susan continues to go in for her check-up every six months knowing that she is still at risk, but reminds other women that getting regular mammograms is the best way to detect problems early. “It’s really concerning when women have trouble getting up the courage to get a mammogram. Knowledge is power,” Susan says.
Going through the process of having and beating breast cancer has made Susan look at life differently. “When you have cancer, you prioritize your life. You spend your time and resources on what really matters. You know what’s important and let go of other things.” Today, Susan is cancer free and is living life more care-free and doing the things that she loves most.