'My story could be your story'

Breast cancer screening saved woman's life

Breast cancer screening saved woman's life

October 23, 2006|by JULIE E. GREENE

At 63, Jacqueline Thompson had never had a mammogram.

"I always considered myself too busy and didn't have time. I didn't get sick," says the Hagerstown woman.

In late October 2005, she had an itch and reached up to scratch and found a lump under her left arm. She thought it might be a swollen gland so she did nothing for two days.

Then she noticed an ad in the newspaper about breast cancer screenings through the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at Robinwood Medical Center. She talked to Carrie Starkey, project director for the Make a Difference Breast Cancer Screening Program, and was scheduled for a clinical exam at South Mountain Women's Health Center in Boonsboro.

A mammogram taken Nov. 2, 2005, revealed a tumor across the front of her left breast. An ultrasound revealed multiple tumors in the breast, and a biopsy confirmed they were cancerous.


Thompson, 64, is now what she calls a "big-mouth advocate" for cancer screenings.

She wants others to know, "My story could be your story."

"Even if you don't think anything's there, check it out," she says.

Screenings and a don't-quit attitude could save their lives, Thompson says.

Thompson underwent chemotherapy for almost four months, shrinking the size of the four tumors. Then she had a complete mastectomy of her left breast May 22, followed by 28 treatments of radiation she finished in August.

Now Thompson is taking the hormone Femara, which inhibits the growth of microscopic cancer cells and causes them to die, says Dr. Hind Hamdan, a medical oncologist at Antietam Oncology & Hematology Group in Hagerstown. She will take the pill for five years.

Thompson says she lost 63 pounds, which she needed to lose, because she temporarily lost her appetite for sweets due to the chemotherapy and she remained off the sweets.

She also lost her dark brown hair, but it's growing back.

Overall, things have gone smoothly.

She still has to monitor her right breast, which had a small benign lump, and she's scheduled for her yearly mammogram this week.

Her husband, Travis Thompson, died of a heart attack Sept. 3, two weeks after she finished her radiation treatments.

She stays busy, as a volunteer, organizing fundraisers at South Hagerstown High School, where her oldest granddaughter, Tiffany Showe, is a junior.

"I never was a person to sit around and cry. It wouldn't have done any good," Thompson says.

The Make a Difference Breast Cancer Screening Program saved her life and was a great resource for Thompson because it didn't require medical insurance, she says.

Thompson lost her job as a supervisor at ribbon manufacturer Berwick Offray in Hagerstown through downsizing in 2003 and was looking for new work as a medical assistance administrator after getting retrained when she found the lump.

The Make a Difference program holds three clinics a month in Washington County that are open to any woman, whether she is insured or not, lives in Maryland or not, says Carrie Starkey, project director.

Women meet with a nurse practitioner for a clinical breast exam, are taught how to do self-exams and are scheduled for a mammogram, often at Washington County Hospital, Starkey says.

The clinics are held at doctors' offices, churches, libraries and other venues.

The program is based out of the John R. Marsh Cancer Center at Robinwood Medical Center and is funded by a Maryland affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. Breast Cancer Awareness, Cumberland Valley, and Washington County Health Department help pay for the mammograms, Starkey says.

Upcoming Make a Difference breast cancer screening programs

· Noon to 4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at Review & Herald Publishing Association, 55 W. Oak Ridge Drive near Prime Outlets at Hagerstown.

· 8 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 28, at John R. Marsh Cancer Center, Suite 129 (orange entrance).

Appointments are not necessary, but are helpful. Transportation is available if needed. Call 301-665-4671.

Go online to for a schedule of future clinics.

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