Saint Thomas West Hospital Spotlight Breast Cancer Survivor
On a beautiful autumn day in September 2011 Sandy Finley received a phone call from her physician's office informing her that her annual screening mammogram was abnormal and she needed to return to the Center for Breast Health at Saint Thomas West Hospital for a diagnostic mammogram. Sandy was not particularly alarmed by this request since she had been diagnosed with fibrocystic breast disease years before so this was often the annual "routine." From her work as a Certified Tumor Registrar in the Cancer Registry at Saint Thomas West Hospital, Sandy knew the signs and symptoms of breast cancer, none of which she was experiencing, but this annual mammogram was different.
She spoke with the radiologist who explained that the evolving microcalcifications in her breast were "linear and branching" and of an indeterminate nature. Having reviewed scores of mammogram reports during the course of her 17 years in the Cancer Registry, Sandy was aware that those adjectives often implied the possibility of malignancy.
On Friday, September 30th, her 28th wedding anniversary, Sandy underwent a stereotactic breast biopsy. Monday morning her family physician called with the results of the biopsy. After the usual pleasantries, he said, "Mrs. Finley, you have high grade invasive ductal carcinoma." Sandy did not hear much of what he said next. She was already thinking of the tough decisions she would soon have to make.
Fortunately, the next day Sandy and her husband, Mark, were able to meet with her surgeon at Saint Thomas West Hospital. Her surgeon discussed possible treatment options. Ultimately, Sandy opted for bilateral mastectomies with sentinel lymph node biopsy. Her surgeon agreed that this surgery was a reasonable option given Sandy's history of fibrocystic breast disease and family history involving a breast cancer diagnosis in five maternal first cousins.
The next step was to meet with Irene Bradford, RN, Nurse Navigator for the STH Center for Breast Health. Irene thoroughly explained to Sandy and her husband the practical aspects of post-op care. Irene answered all of their questions and was encouraging and reassuring. She made them aware of available resources, services and support for cancer patients and their families through The American Cancer Society, Seton Support Center at Saint Thomas, Gilda's Club, and others.
On Thursday, October 27, 2011, Sandy underwent surgery. The surgery went well and the preliminary pathology report stated the lymph nodes were negative for cancer. After discharge from the hospital the following day, Sandy's surgeon called to inform her that the final path report did indeed show a small focus of cancer in the sentinel lymph node. With this news, Sandy knew she would be facing an extended course of treatment, which included chemotherapy.
Sandy underwent four cycles of chemotherapy, completing the last treatment February 8, 2012.
"I presented with no symptoms. My cancer may not have had a favorable outcome had I chosen to postpone or delay my annual mammogram last year. That's a sobering thought. I'm doing very well now and in many ways this experience was a blessing. Breast cancer has brought many wonderful people into my life. My friends, family and co-workers were there for me every step of the way. I found the team of professionals at Saint Thomas West Hospital and Tennessee Oncology to be encouraging, knowledgeable and compassionate. Through all of these amazing people, I have truly experienced God's love and grace." --Sandy Finley
Sandy celebrated her 29th wedding anniversary with her husband Mark on September 30, 2012, cancer free.