Terrie McCraw is a breast cancer survivor. Her life was saved because she acted on symptoms revealed in self-examination. Terrie’s amazing story began last October while watching the movie “Why I Wore Red Lipstick to My Mastectomy.” She saw that the woman in the movie, based on a true story, was young, in her late 20’s, and had breast cancer. So Terrie decided that night to examine her breasts and found a lump! Ironically, when she had gone for a mammogram just a few months earlier, the lump never showed up.
So, Dr. Cathy Graham, Medical Director of the St. John West Shore Hospital Breast Health Center, insisted that Terrie have a biopsy.
The biopsy came back positive. And Terrie became SJWS’s first-ever patient in its BLES program – a unique, minimally invasive out-patient surgical procedure that removed her cancer without a trip to the Operating Room. “People do not realize that 15 per cent of breast cancers do not show up on mammograms,” said Joyce Forristell, SJWS Breast Health Coordinator. “It happens, and that is why breast self-examination is so important.”
“That is the message I want to get out,” said Terrie. “This is Breast Health Awareness Month. We all hear about it so much. But it can’t be over-stated. Self-examination is so important.”
“If Dr. Cathy Graham did not insist that she have a biopsy, nothing would have been detected at that time,” said Joyce. “She was the Hospital’s first ever BLES patient and that saved her a trip to the OR – she was able to drive herself to the hospital and home right after her procedure.”
St. John Medical Center is the only Northeast Ohio hospital, and one of only 75 hospitals nationwide, to offer the Intact™ Breast Lesion Excision System (BLES.) This image-guided, minimally invasive biopsy procedure allows for a slender wand to be inserted through a small incision in the breast to remove an intact sample of suspicious tissue for analysis. “Terrie needed just one suture after her procedure,” commented Joyce.
BLES eliminates the need for many women with a suspicious lesion to undergo invasive surgery and a potentially painful recovery. Additionally, it can be used as an alternative to a needle biopsy, which can disturb the lesion and only removes a small portion of the entire tissue.
Terrie was found to have an aggressive form of breast cancer. She proceeded to have two additional breast surgeries plus another surgery for a port placement in which to receive her Chemotherapy. She had all of her surgeries done at St. John West Shore Hospital. She had her Chemotherapy and Radiation done at the Ireland Cancer Center on Clague Road.
Terrie is also a member of the “Hope Group,” the SJWS breast cancer support group that is co-facilitated by Lydia Gadd, Professional Clinical Counselor at SJWS, and Forristell.
“I really enjoyed the group,” said Terrie, 42, married and the mother of four. “There is a lot of learning about breast cancer, diet, exercise, all sorts of support. I am deeply religious and did not want to compromise my faith, but I discovered this group was about learning and support.”
“Women are frequently the care-givers so they become the last to take care of themselves,” said Joyce. “This group gives them a resource with elements of education and support. It is not a boo-hoo session, but a learning service that empowers you and helps you understand what you are doing and why you are doing it. Women are so used to being caregivers that this is the first time many need to care for themselves.
“Terrie has utilized our Breast Health Services throughout the continuum of her care and she is a great addition to the “Hope Group”. She is an outstanding woman and has had to face a lot this past year and has evolved strong, educated and pro-active in breast health! She is truly amazing!” said Joyce.
And Terrie, headed back to her busy life as a wife and mother, once again urges all women to start taking care of their health with one simple test – breast self-examination. “You read about it all the time, you hear about it all the time. But you should be doing it!” said Terrie.
For additional information about BLES, or the St. John Medical Center Breast Health Program, contact Joyce at 440-827-5459.