Breast Cancer Survivor
Julianne Morton says, “It’s always wise to have an annual mammogram. That’s how they find things.” For years, Julianne has cheerfully hounded the women in her life about protecting their breast health. With a family history of cancer, the disease was always in the back of her mind. In March of 1999, when Julianne was 51, an annual mammogram revealed a tiny tumor buried deep inside Julianne’s left breast.
Julianne had a mastectomy and breast reconstruction using her own stomach tissue. She said the real road to recovery began with confirmation that her lymph nodes were cancer-free. “We knew then that life was going to be as normal as it could be,” Julianne said. “From the very beginning, I felt I’m not ready yet. I still have a few more years to go.”
Soon after Julianne’s treatment had been completed, she was told that Jennie Edmundson Hospital was embarking on a complete redesign of its breast cancer care, led by surgeon Michael Zlomke, MD. Dr. Zlomke had a vision of a different, more woman-centered approach. He invited Julianne and other recent breast cancer patients to participate in a special focus group.
Julianne was among the dozen women who met with Dr. Zlomke and other Cancer Center staff over dinner to talk about their experiences. After dinner, in a private group session with an independent research consultant, the women spoke frankly about their concerns. No aspect of care was off-limits.
“These women were instrumental in shaping our program,” said Dr. Zlomke, now medical director of Jennie Edmundson’s Breast Health Center. “Their input helped us create one of the area’s first breast centers to provide truly patient-focused care.”
“I was proud to be involved,” Julianne said, though she hoped that she and her loved ones would remain visitors, not patients of the new facility. But in 2005, Julianne returned, bringing her mother for care.
Julianne’s advice to her mother and to other women after breast cancer is two-fold. “The best thing to do is to just continue on with your life, doing what you really want to do,” Julianne said.
Julianne’s second piece of advice: “Get your mammogram!”