One month before her scheduled mammogram, Heather Sandquist felt a lump. She figured she would hold off addressing it until her scheduled appointment, but a few weeks later, when the lump was bigger, she decided to see her PCP. Ironically, her doctor had a medical student shadowing and when the student stepped out to get the doctor post-breast exam, Heather grew nervous. After another exam by the doctor, Heather was told. “don’t worry, we are going to take good care of you.” She was immediately scheduled for a mammogram, the results of which went directly to a surgeon. While that entire time was a blur for Heather, one thing was clear: she had breast cancer.
The coming months were met with a single left mastectomy, 8 weeks of chemotherapy and 33 rounds of radiation. Ultimately, she went on to have a single right mastectomy to avoid feeling lopsided. To her surprise, that surgery revealed precancerous cells, so it proved a good decision. With no family history or genetic markers, Heather is still puzzled by the diagnosis, but she is aware of how important frequent checks are and it’s something she will make sure her own daughter does.
Today, Heather relies on her support group at Lowell General. Though she isn’t as talkative as most, she finds the support system helpful. To those who are newly diagnosed, her advice is some echoed by many in the Runway family: “stay as positive as you can.”