For years, 58-year-old Debra Taylor was faithful about getting her annual mammogram. But for some reason she just didn't get around to having the all-important screening exam in 2013. For Debra, it was divine intervention that ultimately would get her on track for the overdue diagnostic exam and life-saving treatment for Stage I Breast Cancer that she received at Capital Regional Medical Center.
"In the summer of 2014 I started experiencing a little tenderness in my right breast," she said. "I felt for lumps, but because I have dense breasts (fibrous tissue), they feel lumpy anyway." While Debra didn't take action based on the new pain she was feeling, an entirely different health scare sent her to the local ER in her hometown of Perry. "I was reading and all of a sudden I couldn't see the whole word. There was a prism of light and I thought I was having a stroke," she said. "When I got to the ER, my blood pressure was too high so they administered medication to bring it down to normal and sent me home with a prescription and instructions to follow-up with my primary care physician."
At her follow up visit to get a referral to an ophthalmologist, Debra mentioned the breast pain and admitted to skipping her mammogram the year before. "He chastised me for missing that exam and sent me to a local provider for a mammogram. A few days later, I received a letter that I needed a follow-up visit based on my results. I went back for an ultrasound a week later, and within a few days received another letter saying I needed a biopsy."
After finding out that she couldn't be scheduled for a biopsy for several weeks at another facility, Debra said she just couldn't wait that long. "I told my doctor that if I had cancer I didn't want to give it another week!" At that point, her primary care doctor reached out to Dr. Rodolfo Oviedo, a general surgeon affiliated with Capital Regional Surgical Associates.
"Dr. Oviedo and his staff were wonderful," said Debra. Her biopsy was scheduled and within a few days she was having the procedure at Capital Regional. "The hospital staff is really good as well. They have a great bedside manner and are very sympathetic to the patient and what you're going through." Debra said her anxiety was at an all-time high and she simply couldn't bear to wait for an appointment to get the results. "Dr. Oviedo called me because he knew how stressed I was and gave me the results over the phone based on my wishes. He said I did have breast cancer, but it was caught early. We made an appointment for me to come in and discuss my treatment options the next day."
While she qualified for a lumpectomy with radiation, Debra and her husband Wade had already thoroughly discussed her options and decided on a double mastectomy. Because of a possible increased risk of recurrence in the other breast, she wanted the procedure as a precautionary measure.
Dr. Oviedo coordinated with her plastic surgeon of choice, Dr. Jeffrey Rawlings so the mastectomy and initial reconstructive surgery could be schedule together. "I was so grateful that it could be done at the same time," she said. "There was a question as to whether my insurance would cover a double mastectomy since cancer was only present in one breast, but my two surgeons worked together to get it approved. I was diagnosed on December 22nd and on January 9th was at Capital Regional for my procedure."
"I can't stress enough how the team of doctors and nurses at Capital Regional helped me through one of the darkest times in my life," she said. "Capital Regional has always been my hospital of choice and I had the best care I could possibly want. I believe that had I not had my team of doctors and their wonderful staff, my Capital Regional, my 'angel' nurses, my husband and family, I wouldn't be here today."
Most importantly though, she says her greatest support came from God. "All three of my doctors, in separate conversations, said that the breast pain which I ignored, then the weird experience with my eyes in December was God nudging me to get medical attention." Debra says her big message to women is to be faithful about mammograms. While her cancer was caught early, had she ignored the other signs 'from above,' she might not be telling her story today.