It’s a six-letter word that changes your life in a split second: CANCER. Hearing that diagnosis can be overwhelming and frightening.
Breast cancer can occur in both men and women, but it’s far more common in women. In fact, after skin cancer, breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in women in the United States.
Thanks to the amazing support from her friends and family, a patient at Elliot Health System, Madeline Bacon, is making it her mission to share her story as she battles breast cancer. “When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I was thinking maybe there’s a reason I have breast cancer. Maybe my journey is supposed to take me to educate people. To say, look, I look perfectly normal, I live an active lifestyle, and I have cancer. I’m not afraid of sharing my story,” Bacon explains.
Bacon is no stranger to cancer. In June of 2018, Bacon was diagnosed with a neuroendocrine tumor. It was hidden in the ampulla of her pancreas and she went through a complicated course of treatment. To this day, Bacon remains on a long-term chemotherapy treatment that she receives once a month to keep that cancer at bay.
In August of 2020, Bacon went into the Breast Health Center at The Elliot at River’s Edge for her annual mammogram. “I was getting a little suspicious after my mammogram as I was sitting there and one person after another was being called. I was thinking back, ‘well this has happened before.’ I was thinking, ‘okay, just don’t panic,’” Bacon says about that day.
She was called in to do more imaging, and an ultrasound was also performed. “Dr. Marina Feldman came in and told me a new mass was found. By the look on her face I knew she suspected something bad,” Bacon explains.
On August 20, 2020, Bacon was called at home where she was told she had stage 1 breast cancer. “My first thoughts were, I was kind of shocked on one side, but then I wasn’t because I had this gut feeling that something was wrong. So, it was kind of a bewildering thing,” she says.
Bacon had no symptoms and the mass could not be felt. “You need to do monthly self-breast exams. Once you meet the recommendations for having your annual mammogram that should be an absolute given. A year ago, there was no indication in my mammogram that there was anything wrong. So, this is totally new, I couldn’t feel it. We’re very lucky it was caught early. It’s really important to catch it early, because if you catch it early, your prognosis is excellent,” Bacon says.
In the coming weeks, she will begin radiation and start a five-year hormonal therapy. She will also do regular six-month follow ups.
“I have been able to successfully navigate this process thanks to the help of my nurse navigator and Dr. Elise Gates an oncologist at Elliot Breast Health Center. Not only is Dr. Gates skilled, she is compassionate and committed to her patients. When I had questions, I sought her out and she was there,” Bacon explains.