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Gloria Whitney

Gloria Whitney
Posted on: 12/28/2023

The one abnormal mammogram

Gloria Whitney received her first mammogram when she was in her 30s. She’s 80 years old now, so that’s about a half century of vigilant, annual mammograms. Every mammogram for nearly 50 years came back normal … until the one that didn’t.

“That’s why I say, ‘Don’t ever miss a mammogram. Ever!’ You just never know. But if you catch cancer early, you have a greater chance of beating it,” Gloria said.

Unfortunately, Gloria knows about cancer all too well. Cancer runs deep and wide across her family tree. Her father and 8 out of 11 of his siblings passed away from cancer; and her paternal grandfather and 9 out of 10 of his siblings passed away from cancer too. Plus, both of her daughters have fought cancer.

“I hate cancer! I call it The Monster! We have extreme cancer in our family, and all different kinds of it. I had hoped the disease skipped my generation,” Gloria said. “My mammograms had always been normal, so when the radiology center called and said they discovered a small spot, I just knew they had made a mistake.”

After the mammogram, her doctor’s office referred her to Eastern Idaho Women’s Imaging for a needle biopsy. “Immediately, the people at EIRMC found it. When the results came back cancerous, I said, ‘Well, we’ll just have to take care of this,’” Gloria said.

Gloria heard opinions from friends, family and medical professionals about what to do next. Suggestions ranged from undergoing a mastectomy (removal of the breast) with breast reconstruction, to a lumpectomy (removal of the small cancerous spot on the one affected breast).

Gloria relied on the experts at the Idaho Cancer Center at Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center to develop a treatment plan for her stage 1 breast cancer. Dr. William Nibley, medical oncologist, collaborated closely with a radiation therapist and surgical team to ensure a personalized, quality cancer care plan was in place.

Jamie Jensen, who serves as a nurse navigator at the Idaho Cancer Center, helped Gloria schedule appointments, learn about different specialists, and answer questions about what steps to take next. “You shop around for the best clothes, car, etc. Well, I shopped around and Googled for the best doctors and oncologists, as did my daughters. There is a huge difference in quality care. Take time to search for the right fit for you,” Gloria said.

“I decided I didn’t want to have to go through a mastectomy and reconstruction at 80 years old. It would be too much for me. When I met with Dr. Nibley, I was very impressed. He explained what could happen and what my choices were. He went through step by step; he even drew pictures. He was so knowledgeable. He agreed that at my age he wouldn’t recommend a mastectomy, and instead suggested a lumpectomy followed by radiation. That sounded right to me,” Gloria said.

 “Dr. James Summers was the surgeon who performed my lumpectomy. He was encouraging and had such a wonderful bedside manner. I had total trust in him,” Gloria said. “I was nervous because surgery scares me. I do everything I can to avoid it, but I just told myself I needed to have faith that all would be well. I had family with me, so I relaxed closed my eyes and went under the knife.”

“It ended up being easier than I expected. In fact, I had surgery on Friday, left for Utah on Sunday and flew to New York on Wednesday to celebrate my 80th birthday with my daughter, a granddaughter and family, including my great grandson,” Gloria shared.

Next came her radiation therapy. Gloria underwent radiation treatment five days a week for 3.5 weeks.

“The radiation team members at Idaho Cancer Center were friendly, kind and above amazing. They’re glad to see you and spend time talking with you. As for how radiation feels, when you’re having treatment, you don’t notice much. I’s the aftereffects that get you. About three weeks in, I started feeling tired and a lymph node under my arm grew as big as a softball. It’s down to a baseball size now. I have PT once a week to help with this. Hopefully it will continue to improve,” Gloria said.

Today, about eight months post-cancer treatment, things are much better. She says the lessons learned from fighting cancer, and watching loved ones fight cancer, are not lost on her.

“The No. 1 thing I’ve learned is that life can change in a matter of seconds. Never take life for granted! Things are going to happen to our bodies and to the bodies of those we hold dear. We must gird up our loins and have faith- faith that all will be well! Worry gets you nowhere and helps no one. It only robs you of peace. Faith, on the other hand, brings peace! I say, you can skip to the Lu, but do not skip what’s good for you! Take time to schedule and get your yearly mammogram. It could save your life!”

With a bright future ahead, Gloria plans to invest her time with family and playing with her great grandchildren. She has three children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, with number four on the way. She prays cancer won’t be a part of their future. That said, she finds hope and peace knowing that compassionate, top-quality cancer care – like what she received at Idaho Cancer Center at EIRMC – is available if needed.

Gloria Whitney
Posted on: 12/28/2023

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