When Terri Perry found a lump in her armpit in January 2018, she thought it was just a swollen lymph node from being sick. When it didn’t go away after two weeks, she went in for a mammogram.
This mammogram – unlike the one she had just 13 months before – came back showing three different malignant masses. On Terri’s 60th birthday, she was told she had Stage 3 triple negative breast cancer, a rare type. Only 10 to 20 percent of breast cancers are triple negative (meaning they cannot be treated with hormonal therapy medicines). The cancer had also spread to her lymph nodes.
Terri, who works part time as an emergency technician for Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Flagstaff Medical Center, was put in touch with Nancy Foreman, nurse navigator with the Cancer Centers of Northern Arizona Healthcare (CCNAH) immediately, and they met later that same day.
“She was a godsend,” Terri says. “She introduced me to everyone at the Flagstaff Breast Care clinic including my team of doctors, Dr. Preston, Dr. Mathern and Dr. David. We all went over my plan together. They wanted to get going right away, and it was all happening at CCNAH, so it was very convenient.”
Terri was quickly fitted with a chemotherapy port, which she wore for five months. After chemo, it was time for surgery – a lumpectomy and a breast reduction – and radiation therapy at FMC. Those methods worked so well that Terri didn’t need a mastectomy, or removal of her breast. She’ll be on oral chemotherapy through the end of February 2019.
“Anything I needed to know, the team would answer; they were so helpful,” she says.
“People asked, ‘Are you going to go to Phoenix?’ and I said ‘No, I’m staying right here.’ I didn’t want to travel far from home and I’m glad I didn’t. With the smaller town atmosphere, you know the staff and the breast clinic is easy to get into when you need to. I had the gold standard of treatment during this tough time.”
The Flagstaff Breast Care clinic is accessed by primary care physician referral, or, if you have a positive breast biopsy, you may self-refer through Arizona Oncology. The clinic team includes a surgeon, a medical oncologist and a radiation oncologist who all work together to determine the treatment plan you need.