Early Breast Cancer Detection Can Save Lives: Survivors Are Living Proof

October 9, 2023

Susie Navarro, Yolanda Hill, Brenda McCray, Jin Coplin

(L to R) Breast cancer survivors Susie Navarro, Yolanda Hill, Brenda ​McCray and Jin Coplin

Brenda McCray – 53 years old

Brenda McCrayIn 2020, I found a knot the size of a pea on the right side of my breast from a self-breast exam. I contacted my primary care physician right away and was scheduled for a mammogram. I was 50 years old at that time and was diagnosed with stage 2 to 3 invasive ductal carcinoma. Then three years later, I was diagnosed with stage zero ductal carcinoma.

During my original appointment in 2020 at another hospital, I underwent a mammogram and a 3D sonogram. When the doctor came out to speak to me, I didn’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling. He told me it was a swollen lymph node. I went home and kept an eye on it.

After two months, the knot in my breast had increased. I called my primary care physician and told her what was going on and said that I wanted a second opinion.

My Care at Aiken Regional

I went to Aiken Regional and had a mammogram and a 3-D sonogram. The radiology nurse was very nice, but I was concerned because it took her 45 minutes to come back with results. When she came back, she brought the doctor with her. He sat down, held my hand and said that he was 99.9% sure that I had cancer. I was shocked. I started crying, and the nurse hugged me and said it’s going to be OK. The doctor then explained that the reason he took so long to come back was because he was speaking to my primary care physician, along with the surgeon that I had chosen to remove the lymph node, to discuss the scope of care. 

I had always received yearly mammograms and never had any concerns. My aunt, great-aunt and great-great-aunt on my mother's side, and my great-aunt on my dad's side, were all diagnosed with the same cancer in the same area. I had taken a genetic test and received a negative result for the gene, but the doctor said that the breast cancer could still be hereditary.

When first diagnosed, I immediately wanted to get a double mastectomy. After speaking to Dr. Jill Enter, I asked if it were her or her family, what would she do? She said she would suggest a lumpectomy. She said that I would have to undergo radiation and chemotherapy because of the size of the mass. I immediately started crying. Dr. Enter held my hand and reassured me that we are going to be fine and that I could get through this. I immediately felt that she cared for me and was putting my best interests first.

During treatment for my first diagnosis, I received a lumpectomy along with four rounds of chemotherapy and radiation every three weeks. I was then prescribed another medication for 10 years to help prevent the breast cancer from coming back. After my second diagnosis, I received a double mastectomy. I had calcium deposits throughout my breast and was at stage zero.

Dr. Enter truly sets Aiken Regional apart. She cared for me as a friend and as a patient! Before surgery she prayed with me, which really put my mind and heart at ease. Not all doctors do this, and it showed me that she was different.

I believe that Aiken Regional Medical Centers cares about me as an individual, and I’m not just a number. The staff follows up with phone calls just to ensure that I am OK, both mentally and physically. They have provided me with the resources that I need to maneuver my way through.

My Advice

My best takeaway advice is to make sure that you have physicians you connect with and that you genuinely feel care for your health and for you as an individual. Don't be scared to ask questions. It's your journey, so trust your doctor and the process. Keep up with your regular checkups. Listen to your body, and don't be afraid to ask for a second opinion. Tell your doctors what you're feeling. I'm so grateful to Aiken Regional for helping me through this difficult time by introducing me to great doctors and staff who cared for me and gave me the best outcome.

Susie Navarro – 58 years old

Susie NavarroPrior to COVID-19, I had my annual mammogram check-ups because two of my maternal aunts had breast cancer. I was involved in a car wreck in March of 2021, went to the trauma center and then home. Soon after I was sent home, I went to my regular doctor regarding my bruised breasts, which I noticed after the car accident. The doctor ordered an ultrasound and could tell something was irregular with my right breast, so he ordered a 3D exam and then sent me directly to Aiken Regional Medical Centers for an ultrasound. I was 56 years old when I was diagnosed with triple negative aggressive invasive carcinoma breast cancer.  

After being diagnosed with breast cancer, my treatment options included immediate placement of a port and then aggressive chemotherapy. I endured six and a half weeks of chemotherapy and then underwent a double mastectomy, with an additional seven weeks of radiation, five days a week.

I recommend Aiken Regional to someone diagnosed with breast cancer because I am a living testimony! The aggressive treatments in my medical plan saved my life! I won’t go anywhere else because of the quality of care I received from everyone at the hospital. The hospitalists are wonderful! My surgeon, Dr. Wayne Frei, is the best and he truly cares about all his patients. The doctors, nurses, nurse techs, food service and housekeeping staff go above and beyond to serve their patients. Dr. Frei is truly the best and has such genuine care and concern for his patients and is very proactive in getting the best treatment available to help you beat the odds. [He and his team] stayed on top of everything from the beginning. They have been very involved with my care since day one and even now as a follow-up patient. I also believe that I can trust the doctors with my life because they do what is best for me and my health; I’m not just a patient to them. 

I would go to Aiken Regional for any future healthcare needs because I receive quality care every time I go.

Breast Screenings Are Essential

I believe there is importance in starting mammograms as early as you can and always making it a priority to do the self-check exam monthly. I have learned a lot, and I cannot express enough to everyone to make sure you get your mammogram every year and know your body. If something doesn’t feel right, you need to advocate for yourself and go to your doctor. If I had not been so adamant about my breast issues after my car wreck, I wouldn’t be here writing this.

My Advice

My advice for others who go through this is to BE POSITIVE! Remove all negativity from your mind!! It will help in the healing process as well! I give thanks to the good Lord above first and foremost, my devoted husband and children. I also give praise and thanks to all those involved with my health from the beginning and still today. Stay on top of your health and make use of the resources available to you. Quit worrying about what may or may not happen. Just live your life each day being happy and positive with even the smallest of things.

Yolanda Hill – 48 years old

Yolanda HillI felt a lump in my right breast for about two months before I went to see a medical doctor. When I realized the lump was not going away and was continuing to grow, I finally made the appointment with my doctor who sent me in for a 3D mammogram. Immediately afterwards, I was sent for an ultrasound, then a biopsy a few days later. I was 47 years old when I was diagnosed with HER2-positive breast cancer. 

I have a family history of breast cancer on my father’s side; my grandmother, aunt and great-aunt all had breast cancer. And two years prior to my great-aunt’s diagnosis, she had a mammogram. 

After being diagnosed with breast cancer I underwent chemotherapy to shrink the tumor, followed by surgery, radiation, then medicine for about a year. I endured six rounds of chemotherapy every three weeks.

I decided to seek treatment at Aiken Regional Medical Centers after hearing positive feedback about the hospital from the community. After birthing my three children at Aiken Regional, I have confidence in the care that I receive there. The nurses at the imaging center, and the nurses in the surgery center, were all so caring and kind. I have no complaints about how I was treated. Dr. Wayne Frei is a wonderful doctor. I had many positive feelings and was able to fully understand his medical advice. My whole cancer team is awesome, and the nurses I had at the oncology center were terrific. 

My Advice

I advise women to get their yearly mammograms and openly recommend anyone struggling with breast cancer to receive treatment at Aiken Regional.

I learned that I could not have gotten through this journey without God, and God placing the wonderful people from Aiken Regional, who do their jobs so well, in my life. Listen to your team and make decisions based on the information they give you. Trust that they know what they are doing.

I am grateful and thankful to God for having a great experience with Aiken Regional’s staff. May God bless them all.

Jin Coplin – 44 years old

Jin CoplinI found a bump on the left side of my breast and went to see my doctor, who referred me to get a mammogram. I was 44 years old when I was diagnosed with invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer.

My treatment included a lumpectomy, a follow-up with chemotherapy, followed by four rounds of additional chemotherapy, once every three weeks. I found the Aiken Regional team to be special, because every single doctor and nurse I encountered, especially Dr. Jill Enter, was kind, treated me as their friend and cared about my feelings. Everything during treatment was prompt and smooth. Everyone at Aiken Regional cares about your needs. 

I believe that people should care for themselves no matter what age or how healthy you are, do self-exams and get mammograms. Finding concerns and receiving treatment as early as possible can lead to less stress in your life.

My Advice

Don’t wait until it gets worse. Find the problem and treat it. Breast cancer is scary, but find it early and treat it early. Be positive and you will win.

I would like to thank everyone who helped and explained things along my journey, especially Dr. Enter.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Early breast cancer detection can save lives. Schedule your annual mammogram today →