Mammography & Cancer Services
At 38 years old, Jennifer Yankee never expected to look in the mirror one day and discover something new about her body – a small area of dimpled skin on the side of her left breast. At first, she wondered about the cause, but soon the wonder turned to worry, and Jennifer decided she needed a mammogram, just in case. Jennifer had heard she did not need a physician referral to have a screening mammogram at NRMC’s Breast Center, so she called to schedule one. “As I got the 3D mammogram, I was scared of what they might find,” Jennifer said.
“The radiologist, Dr. Ben Hogg explained to me that he saw two suspicious areas, so he did a breast ultrasound immediately, and said he thought the masses were malignant. He said I needed a biopsy, and we talked about finding a general surgeon. The tech who did my mammogram held me when I began to cry as the reality of having breast cancer began to set in. I felt the weight of the world at that moment but greatly appreciated the kindness and support of Dr. Hogg and everyone there,” Jennifer remembered. “I told myself — I’m going to fight this cancer and do whatever I can to get rid of it, because my daughter and mom need me. I need me.”
“My surgeon, Dr. Steven Jackson was great,” Jennifer said. “The biopsy identified two different kinds of cancerous cells, and he talked with me about surgical options. Because my grandmother had breast cancer, I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy. We went ahead and scheduled my surgery. I did not want to wait.”
The morning of her surgery, Jennifer walked with her mom and seven-year-old daughter to NRMC which was close by. She appreciated everyone’s kindness as she got checked in. The surgery went well, and Jennifer praised Dr. Jackson, the surgery team, all the nurses and everyone who helped her at the hospital. Within 48 hours, she was back home and felt as if she had taken her first step in fighting back.
Because several lymph nodes were positive for cancer, as well as the type of cancer and its size and location near the chest wall, Jennifer needed chemotherapy. This treatment targets cancer cells and destroys them, helping prevent the cancer from spreading. The infusions started in February and Jennifer quickly realized the full impact of all the side effects including losing her hair. She kept telling herself to fight and not give up. On April 12th, she finished chemotherapy. Her second step in fighting cancer was over, and so she moved on to her third step – 36 daily radiation treatments.
Jennifer’s radiation oncologist, Dr. Troy Richards went above and beyond as Jennifer explains, “He helped me cope with the emotional side of having cancer, especially since I was so young and had a seven-year-old. He explained that everything I was feeling emotionally was to be expected. He understood, and it helped a lot to talk with him.”
“On June 22nd, I rang the bell,” Jennifer explained. “My last radiation treatment was done. That bell at the Cancer Center symbolized every thought and feeling I had since this whole thing began. I rang the fire out of that bell. It was the best feeling in the world.”
Jennifer wants to express her gratitude to everyone who helped her at the NRMC Breast Center, General Surgery Associates, hospital, and Cancer Center. “Being able to stay in Natchitoches and get excellent care meant so much to me. I’m so grateful that was possible,” Jennifer said.
Jennifer hopes by sharing her story that other women will schedule mammograms. She emphasizes, “Even if you are young, pay attention to your body. If you see or feel something different, get to the NRMC Breast Center for a mammogram. And if you are over 40, get a mammogram every year or two.”