"Hearing the word cancer is a scary experience, but Shellie made me feel like I was never alone," said Teddi Ferda, a Chesterton resident, as she spoke to a room full of women at Methodist Hospitals' Healthy Night Out with the Girls Event.
There were tears shed throughout the room as Ferda recalled her experience of being told by her physician that she had an infiltrating ductile carcinoma in the right breast.
"Hearing this diagnosis would never be good; however, having Shellie Rowe here to discuss the issue with was a blessing. She is knowledgeable, personable and compassionate. I realize that she does this everyday and sees many patients, however, she made me feel like no one else existed but me," added Ferda, who works in Chicago.
Shellie Rowe is the Methodist Hospitals Breast Health coordinator.
"Patients' minds are either racing or have gone numb," Rowe said, "I'm here to help them navigate the system and stay on track."
Having had a biopsy herself 20 years ago, Rowe knows what patients face. The role of a Breast Health Coordinator is to be a support and resource for the patient and her family, and help them understand and cope with the life changes and stress that accompany a diagnosis.
"I discuss what the procedure entails. I arm them with information and questions to ask the doctor. And, if needed I'll help them find a physician," Rowe stressed.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the U.S. and, after lung cancer, the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The good news is breast cancer is highly treatable; more than 90 percent of breast cancer patients survive when cancer is detected early and treated promptly.
The American Cancer Society recommends that women start receiving yearly mammograms at 40. Ferda is hoping her story will inspire other women to be proactive in their health and schedule a mammogram.
Since her diagnosis, Ferda has had a breast lumpectomy, lymph nodes removed and focused radiation treatment. Her cancer is in remission and did not spread to her lymph nodes.