One survivor’s story: The power of 'life-saving' mammograms
Margaret Heinlein shares how her wellness benefit helped detect her breast cancer early.
Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015
Margaret Heinlein had no
family history of breast cancer. She hadn’t felt anything unusual on her own.
And she can admit it
now: Despite knowing they were
important, she didn’t always follow through on routine wellness tests.
But thankfully for
Margaret and her family, she had that routine mammogram in 2012.
The diagnosis: cancer.
“Of course, my first reaction was
very emotional – mostly shock and fear,” she said.
“My doctor reassured me that my diagnosis was early and my cancer was
treatable, but all I heard was cancer.
It took me a few days to re-focus on the positive, which was my early
“I have to say that in the past I
have not been particularly conscientious about wellness tests like mammograms,
but this experience has taught me that they can be life-saving.”
Margaret underwent a lumpectomy and
seven weeks of radiation treatment. Thanks to the early detection, the tumor
was small and she avoided chemotherapy. The radiation left her fatigued and
with burns similar to bad sunburns.
Margaret, a manager in Colonial
Life’s law department in Columbia, S.C., was able to work through the
treatments and that kept her spirits up and left her feeling like her life was
A cancer insurance policy she has
had since the 1990s helped her pay deductibles and co-payments related to the
surgery, treatment and doctor visits. Of course she never expected to use it.
But she learned it was a wise decision she made all of those years ago.
She speaks fondly of her doctor and
her supportive network of friends and family. Her daughter recently raised
money for cancer research at a mud race. Her T-shirt read: “For my mom.”
“That’s the kind of support I had
and have,” she said.
Margaret’s doing well now – on the
medication that she’ll continue for two more years. Trips to the oncologist
have become routine. As have blood tests, X-rays and other cancer-related tests
Every time she visits the
oncologist, she meets people with cancer who are positive, hopeful and
encouraging to others.
“It’s contagious and inspiring,” she
said. “The cliché about adversity bringing out the best in people may really be
true. I think that the experience of having cancer has made me more
compassionate and certainly more appreciative of all the wonderful things in my
And now, she certainly doesn’t miss
her mammogram – twice a year.
“I am so grateful for the treatment,
the surgery, the doctors, and my life,” she said. “If nothing else, cancer
helps you appreciate every day you have. Getting positive news of ‘no cancer’
from the mammograms is never routine.
“I celebrate every time.”
By Chris Winston
One survivor’s story: The benefits of a positive attitude and fighting ‘like a girl’
One survivor’s story: The power of cancer policy benefits
One survivor’s story: The power of early detection and strong customer service
One survivor’s story: The miraculous opportunities in life after cancer