The oil and gas industry was booming and business was good. Work came first for Michele Thompson just a few short years ago. Turning 40 came and went and before she knew it, Michele was getting her first mammogram at the age of 45 in May 2012. Living in southern Oklahoma at the time, Michele didn’t know what to think when the mammogram revealed a mass.
She decided to wait to pursue further medical consultation and it wasn’t until she moved to Claremore last fall, when shooting pain in her breast prompted her to seek another opinion. She says, however, the voice inside her head kept telling her “breast cancer doesn’t hurt.” Michele went to Bailey Medical Center in September, alone and not sure what to expect. Another mammogram revealed the 7ml tumor. Mammography tech, Becky Wilkins, was by Michelle’s side not only for the scan, but for what followed.
“If it weren’t for Becky, I don’t know what I would have done,” she says. “Becky stood by and really helped me.”
Michele was referred to a general surgeon for a breast biopsy. Although the biopsy did not indicate breast cancer, the surgeon removed the mass on a high index of suspicion. Additional testing revealed the tumor was in fact cancerous and further medical treatment was indicated.
Instead of letting any time go by this time, Michele says Becky insisted she seek further medical advice from a breast surgeon. “She was making sure I was taking the steps I need to take,” Michele says of Becky staying in contact with her through the process of scheduling her appointment and visiting with the surgeon. Through calls and texts, Michele was reassured by Becky these were the steps she would tell one of her own family members to take.
Becky referred Michele to Utica Park Clinic breast surgeon Dr. Laurie Flynn, who started Michele on chemotherapy and suggested genetic testing since both of Michele grandmothers had breast cancer. Following chemotherapy, Dr. Flynn advised Michele to have a double mastectomy, as she had tested positive for the gene mutation BRCA2. This last April Michele had the double mastectomy, followed by radiation. Her lymph nodes on the right side, which showed cancer, were also removed. As recommended follow up care when patients test positive for BRCA2, Michele will also have her ovaries removed.
Michele says walking into the unknown of a breast cancer diagnosis was shielded by her connection with Becky and the staff at Bailey Medical Center. “You feel like you’re the only one,” Michele says. “Bailey made me feel connected. They were there for me. Even the front desk volunteers knew my name.”
To Becky, Michelle is more than a patient. She’s a member of the Bailey family.