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Mary’s story: My breast cancer journey

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

By: Melissa Barth


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January 1 marks the start of a new year. But for Mary Schneider, the first day of 2017 marked the start of a journey that brought her to BayCare Clinic Radiology and a team of doctors she’s thankful for.

 

Mary and her husband, Don, had traveled to Scottsdale, Arizona, from Green Bay for the winter. She woke up on New Year’s Day to something unexpected in one of her breasts.

 

“I usually check myself and I found a lump,” she said. “And I thought, ‘I know what happened. I hit myself with one of the suitcases.’”

 

She waited. But the lump didn’t go away. Mary wondered whether it was breast cancer, but brushed away the thought. “Me? No. It’s something else,” she said.

 

Mary and Don packed up and returned to Green Bay at the end of February.

 

When the lump didn’t go away, Mary went in for her mammogram in March. “Deep down, I knew I had a problem,” she said.

 

Dr. Lynn Mastey, a radiologist with BayCare Clinic, took Mary in for an ultrasound immediately after the mammogram. Mastey wanted Mary to have an answer before the weekend.

 

Mary asked Mastey to be up front when the results arrived.

 

“OK, I’m 78 years old. I can handle the truth. Do you think this is cancer?” she says. “Dr. Mastey said, ‘Yes, Mary, I think this is a breast cancer. I’m glad you came in to get checked out. Now we have to get some answers and get you to the right people to take care of this.’”

 

Mary’s first response wasn’t panic. It was relief.

 

“First of all, it’s not my grandchildren, it’s not my daughter, and it’s not my daughter-in-law. And Dr. Mastey, thank you for not making me wait over the weekend,” she said.

 

She’s also grateful to Mastey for starting her care on such a positive note.

 

“She just made my journey so much healthier because I was able to go to see the surgeon and be able to listen to what he’s telling me because of what she told me,” she said.

 

Mary chose to have a double mastectomy, in which both breasts are removed. She considers herself lucky that she did.

 

“As it turned out, this one (the left breast) had a rare cancer of only 15 percent. They said it was a sneaky type of cancer,” she said. “However, when they took this one out (the right breast), I had cancer cells in there of a different type of cancer.”

 

Her friends and family were worried for her after the procedure. People often said, “Mary, we just heard about you. Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that.”

 

She laughs, puts on a clown’s red nose, and says, “I’m doing great, how are you doing? Look at me. I’m fine!”

 

 

Mary hopes other women facing breast cancer do the one thing she didn’t – see a doctor right away.

 

“If you feel something, go in. Just go in and have it checked,” she said. “You’ll feel better about yourself. And if there is a problem, you deal with it.”

 

To Mary, Mastey was her angel.

 

“Thank you, thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing,” Mary said of Dr. Mastey, who specializes in women’s imaging. “You’re the one that started the journey. What you say to your client or patient is going to make the difference between a good journey and a bad journey.”

 

Mary kept her sense of humor throughout her journey, proving there’s nothing that can slow her down.

 

“Anybody who doesn’t know how to laugh, doesn’t know how to live,” Mary said.

 

Dr. Lynn Mastey sees patients in Green Bay. For appointments, call 920-288-4848 or request one online.

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