Coach Provides Life Saving Service
October 21 was a typical fall day for the children at Meadow Ridge Elementary School in Mead, Washington. The air was chilly and the view of nearby Mount Spokane must have had students and teachers alike dreaming about picking apples and pumpkins at Green Bluff orchards.
For Elizabeth Fish, though, this day would be life changing. The administrative assistant who had worked for the Mead School District for 17 years would step aboard the Sacred Heart Women’s Health Center Coach for a mammogram … and later find out she had breast cancer.
“I’d had my first mammogram on the Coach several years before,” says Elizabeth, “and with the convenience of the Coach coming right to my work, I no longer had an excuse to avoid annual screenings.”
They Found an Area of Concern
When a radiologist reading her mammogram saw areas of concern, Elizabeth followed up with Inland Imaging for magnified mammograms and an ultrasound, and had a biopsy to extract tissue for testing. Her cancer was confirmed: she had invasive ductal carcinoma in situ.
“The affected area was about the size of a golf ball, but the cancer cells were scattered within that area,” Elizabeth explains. Following two surgeries, she underwent 33 radiation treatments, relying heavily on her sense of humor to make the experience easier for herself and for those who provided her therapy. One day, she joked with a technician that she hoped they wouldn’t be running late because she had a night job to get to—at Hooters! Every day from then on, she wore or said something to get a laugh.
“This helped my anxiety a great deal and I formed a warm relationship with people who have very difficult jobs,” she says.
Elizabeth’s treatment is complete and she continues regular exams with her oncologist and surgeon. “Although I have fears, I feel confident that if my cancer returns, it will be caught quickly,” she states.
“Those days make every day worth it.”
—Lana Burnett, mammography technician
Grateful for the Coach's Convenience and Staff
When the Women’s Health Center Coach visited Meadow Ridge again in 2006, Elizabeth made sure to thank the staff for taking quality images and for making it so easy to have a mammogram at her place of work.
The Coach’s mammography technician, Lana Burnett, remembers it well. “When I came out of the exam room, Elizabeth said ‘Hi’ to me, then hugged me and said, ‘You saved my life.’”
“Those days make every day worth it,” says Lana.
Elizabeth adds, “I feel grateful that the Coach is where women are, to make it comfortable and easy to step away from our desks for a few minutes to take care of a very important health issue. I tear up every time I see the Coach—I am so grateful.”
This fall, Elizabeth and her family and friends can look to the foothills of Mount Spokane and think about picking pumpkins instead of dealing with much weightier matters. She’d like to thank her husband of 34 years (who has been “unbelievably supportive”) and her children, sister and friends who have comforted her throughout a time of need.
And she has a message for every woman, stranger and friend alike: “Please get your annual mammogram. What you don’t know can hurt you.”
Don’t have insurance or the ability to pay?
Call the Women’s Health Center, (509) 474-2400, or your local Regional Health District to learn about options through Breast and Cervical Health Programs.
Breast Cancer: What You Should Know
Know the signs, weigh your risks, take the steps for early detection. It can save your life.
- Age (your risk increases with age)
- Family history (breast or ovarian cancer)
- Alcohol use (more than 1 drink/day)
- Diet (high fat)
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Early onset menses/late onset menopause
- Hormone replacement therapy
- No children before age 30
Signs and Symptoms
- A new lump or mass
- Swelling of all or part of a breast (even without a lump)
- Breast or nipple pain
- Nipple retraction (turning inward)
- Redness or thickening of the nipple or breast skin
- A discharge other than breast milk
- Mammogram - annually, for every woman age 40 and older
- Clinical breast exam (by a physician) - once every three years for 20- and 30-year-olds; annually for women 40 and older
- Breast self-exam - monthly, beginning at age 20
- MRI - for women at high risk