Laura Dallam has always been good about getting her yearly mammograms and she’s a big advocate for others getting theirs, too. She knows firsthand the importance of annual exams. She’s twice been diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer, and it was during her annual mammograms that the suspicious spots were found.
In 2018, Laura’s annual mammogram revealed a suspicious spot in her left breast. She had an ultrasound and a biopsy, which confirmed she had stage 1 triple negative breast cancer (TNBC). “I was relieved it was caught early,” she said. “And my doctor said it was very treatable.”
The news of a breast cancer diagnosis didn’t overwhelm her, something she credits to having participated in Komen fundraisers through work for the past 20 years. “I felt like I had a lot of knowledge about breast cancer through that. I didn’t think ‘I might die.’ I wasn’t worried.”
Laura’s next step was meeting with an oncologist, who walked her through her treatment options. Laura had a lumpectomy, followed by four rounds of chemotherapy and 21 radiation therapy sessions. Aside from some fatigue, she didn’t experience many side effects.
Four years later, a mammogram again found a suspicious spot in Laura’s left breast. “This time, they did an ultrasound right away and scheduled the biopsy. It was stage 1 triple negative breast cancer again,” she said. “At that point, I really didn’t have a choice about surgery. I knew I’d have a mastectomy because you can’t do radiation again on the same tissue.”
Laura had a double mastectomy and opted to go flat after surgery. “Reconstruction surgeries can be difficult. I was 60. I figured it would just be easier, and I don’t regret the decision at all,” she said.
Chemotherapy this time around was harder, and Laura experienced more side effects. “I developed a bit of neuropathy in my fingertips and toes, and the exhaustion was much worse this time around,” Laura said. “I also had some cording under my left arm, the side with the breast cancer. I had therapy to help stretch that out.”
An unexpected side effect of the chemotherapy was the development of a voice tremor. “The chemo affected my voice box. When I talked, it sounded like I was upset or nervous or crying. It’s gotten better, but it’s still there a bit.”
Laura sees her oncologist every four months and her breast surgeon every six months for checkups. “Yearly mammograms are important because they can catch something potentially wrong and catch it early,” she said. “It’s happened to me twice.”
Statements and opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.