Annual mammograms were a part of Jacque Wilson's life since she was in her 30s. She and her doctors wanted to keep a close eye on a benign cyst in her left breast found 35 years ago.
A mammogram in 2003 showed precancerous crystals in the right breast. Jacque had two biopsies to confirm the tissue was clear of cancer cells.
Life for the teacher at Goshen Community Schools returned to normal. So did her routine of scheduling mammograms each year.
Everything changed in February 2020. That's when Jacque learned her annual screening showed changes in tissue in the right breast, compared to previous mammograms. A second mammogram and biopsy at Goshen Retreat Women's Health Center confirmed the diagnosis of breast cancer.
Today, Jacque, 67, knows her history of regular mammograms helped catch her breast cancer early when she had more choices for treatment.
"Goshen has been watching developments most of my life," she said.
Initially, Jacque held out hope that she could have a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous cells. But Breast Surgical Oncologist Laura Morris, MD, at the Retreat asked Jacque to go through more tests to make sure they had an accurate diagnosis.
After an MRI and second biopsy, the evidence was clear. Jacque had Stage 1 breast cancer and a mass the size of a mini-cucumber that needed to be removed.
"It was so large that I had only one option – a mastectomy," Jacque said. With support from her husband, Len, Jacque decided to have breast reconstruction during the same surgery as her mastectomy.
After surgery at Goshen Center for Cancer Care in June 2020, Jacque heard good news that her lymph system was clear of cancer cells. That meant she did not need traditional infusion chemotherapy. Instead, Jacque started taking an oral hormone therapy drug to lower risk of breast cancer coming back.
Jacque also took advantage of integrative therapies offered at the cancer center. Nutrition counseling, vitamins and natural supplements reduced side effects from the oral chemotherapy. She relied on her strong faith and powerful prayer support groups to help her through the double-stress of cancer treatment in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions.
"Each person’s journey is different, and you are given many options along the way," Jacque said. "So many people can help you find the right path for you."
Jacque is grateful her regular mammograms and careful readings by the radiologists caught her cancer early. Now she hopes her story can encourage others to get regular screenings.
"Don’t put off your regular screening," she said. "For me, that made a huge difference in the entire treatment."
Today, Jacque feels blessed to raise her voice in song once again and rejoin her worship flagging group. A year into cancer survivorship, she is back to activities she loves, like gardening, enjoying summer days by a lake and helping Len with a rental business in the Goshen area.
"I'm grateful to live life to its fullest," she said.