Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Amazing Story of a Staff Sergeant Who Deployed with Her Unit 30 Days After Being Diagnosed with Breast Cancer

The following is from a transcript of a Department of Defense Bloggers Roundtable and is used with permission:

LINDY KYZER (Army Public Affairs): We're very pleased to have with us Staff Sergeant Elizabeth Cowie. She's a National Guard soldier. She was preparing for deployment to Iraq in the spring of 2007 when an Army-mandated mammogram revealed a tumor. With a year-long deployment around the corner, Staff Sergeant Cowie opted for an aggressive treatment plan and went on to deploy with her unit. Certainly an amazing story, especially as we recognize breast cancer awareness month this October.

Sgt. Cowie, can you tell us about the aggressive treatment and why you decided to go through that treatment, and how you were able to actually deploy with your unit? Because that seems to be a really amazing story that the amount of time was not a lot that you were able to get your treatment in and actually deploy with your unit. Can you describe that?

SGT. COWIE(pictured above): What happened was, once they saw the mammogram and they saw that there was something on there, I had an ultrasound done, and right away the ultrasound confirmed that there was something. They just didn't know what. So through TRICARE I found a physician that was a breast care specialist that was in Indianapolis, which we were at Camp Atterbury during our mob [mobilization] training. And through my TRICARE I could go to see the civilian doctors.

So we went ahead and did that and he did a biopsy and I had to wait about 10 days to see him, so it was a little nerve-wracking. But they understood, you know, it was important for me to hurry up and get there. I had talked with the doctor's office a little bit about the sense of urgency.

So I got in there, did my biopsy, and about three days later had the results back that I was stage zero breast cancer, which is very, very early.

The breast care specialist had very rarely ever seen stage zero. Usually it's caught at stage two to three, so it was by lucky stars that somebody looked close enough at the mammogram to see something that was caught early. Once we had the diagnosis, you know, we talked about my deployment and my time line. I had about 30 days before we were ready to go.

He explained to me some different options. Standard treatment for breast cancer is lumpectomy and then six weeks of radiation therapy. However, there was a new treatment available that I was a good candidate for, and it's called MammoSites.

What it is, instead of having external radiation, you have internal radiation for five days. So you go in twice a day, about 15 to 20 minutes each session for five days, and you're done. So that's what I chose to do because, again, it was on my time line.

I was really committed to my deployment. Being so far into the training, it just was not an option for me personally to back out and say, hey, I have to go home. I'd made a commitment to these troops and to this unit to see them through and that's what I was going to do, as long as the military would let me.

So we went from biopsy to lumpectomy to five days of radiation and cleared for deployment within 30 days. It was pretty aggressive, but again, for me, because they caught it so early, I was a good candidate for it.

Had I not had the mammogram done prior to deployment, had it done a year and a half, two years later, only God knows what it would have been, so I consider myself pretty lucky to have caught it so early.

Again, this month, the whole thing for breast cancer awareness is early detection. I'm a perfect example of that.

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the author of the novel MRS. LIEUTENANT and the co-author of the Jewish holiday book SEASONS FOR CELEBRATION. She is also an Internet business consultant and the co-host of the BlogTalkRadio show

Phyllis' company provides Internet marketing training as well as social media marketing to promote your business more effectively.

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