Marge Young made sure to get a mammogram every year.
Her insurance through Indiana University covered it while she worked as the secretary for the IU Maurer School of Law.
On Aug. 27, 2007, her doctor found something concerning.
“He said, ‘It looks like you have a spot of interest.’” He called it a calcification.
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“I said, ‘Let me see the X-ray.’ He said, ‘You’re not going to see what it is. It’s tiny little things.’”
Young didn’t have any symptoms.
“I was in denial. There was nothing wrong with me.”
She spoke with a radiologist at Southern Indiana Radiological Services, then saw her family doctor. Her family doctor called the radiologist and the two conferred while she waited in the exam room.
“He came back and said, ‘This guy is really quite knowledgeable and he says it probably needs to be done. You need to have surgery and have it removed.’”
Young protested a little. The area of concern was small, she said.
“He said, ‘Yeah, and if you don’t get it out now, it will probably get bigger. Do you want to have it be a big issue?’”
The surgery was scheduled.
On Sept. 7, 2007, she had a lumpectomy to remove the calcifications. A machine guided a wire inside her breast to the area doctors were concerned about.
“That way, the surgeon knows right where to make his incision and how far he needs to go and where he should be looking for some unusual tissue,” Young said.
She had a team of doctors who worked to treat her. They would meet every morning.
One of her doctors suggested going to counseling to deal with the shock of it all and understand how the process will work.
“You’re kind of feeling your way through this stuff, but they were very supportive over there,” she said of then-Bloomington Hospital.
She and Kurt, her husband of 26 years, attended sessions at the Olcott Center for cancer education. It’s a nonprofit affiliated with IU Health that offers free services, like wig fittings and general counseling.
“If you’re having issues, they will counsel you more times than one. They kind of go through the description of what all you’re going to go through physically and all the other stuff,” Young said.
The doctors ended up not finding enough tissue to biopsy after the surgery. Young wasn’t even at Stage 1 breast cancer.
“It was like I got off easy, because apparently, whatever was going on was caught early on. Mammograms are good. Mammograms are very good,” she said.
After the surgery, Young healed for about a month and was able to take off work using family leave.
“Your breast has lobes. They are circular, like spokes in a wheel, and they took one of the spokes out,” she said.
Radiology treatments began five days a week after she healed. She did not have to have chemotherapy. She would take her lunch break at around 2 p.m., get her treatment and go back to work.
“You can’t let the stuff disrupt you totally if you can avoid doing that,” she said.
She didn’t have any side effects until the final week, when she began to get a sunburn at the site of radiation.
“You feel a little tired, mostly because you’re stressed out,” she said. “I worked, I think, all the way up to the last week (of radiation), then it was just kind of uncomfortable.”
Her treatment was complete on Nov. 22.
“Other people that would come in to have their radiation done were in much worse shape than I was. I was just going to get the baby stuff. Some people that came in had chemotherapy first, then radiation, so they were without hair.”
The surgery removed the cancerous tissue, and the radiation was done to ensure that the cancer hadn’t spread to places the doctors couldn’t see, Young said.
“This is to keep them from having to do a radical mastectomy. The healing from that is much more severe, it’s much more deforming and they find it’s not as helpful anyways,” she said.
While reading the Indianapolis Star on Oct. 10, 2007, Young ran across a prayer on the opinion page.
She had just started her radiation treatment two days prior. She decided to clip it out and write the prayer on a small yellow card.
As she sits at a table, she opens up a blue notebook held together with a strap and looks in a pocket inside. The yellow card is still there, the date written on the back.
It reads: ‘When it is hard to be thankful, O God, help us to be mindful of everyday blessings, ordinary joys and common miracles here today. Amen.’
“It still means something,” Young said.
“It just tells me you can’t deal with the whole picture at once. You just can’t. You just have to do it — like it’s almost an Alcoholics Anonymous thing — you just do one day at a time. You do what you gotta do. Pretty soon, you will be done with all of the treatments and all of that.”
After her treatments were complete, Young had diagnostic mammograms for a couple of years every six months. She would also see the radiology oncologist for a checkup.
Now, since it’s been 10 years, Young is back to routine mammograms once a year.
She just stopped seeing her oncologist last year.
“She sees lots of cancer patients that are just not doing well. … I used to go in there and say, ‘Well, here’s one that’s OK.’ She said, ‘Well, you know you don’t have to really come back in anymore.’ I said, ‘Well, I just like you to see that some people do make it OK.’”
She later learned that breast cancer runs in her family. Her sister had Stage 4 cancer that resulted in chemotherapy and secondary cancers. Her sister still is battling cancer.
She encourages men and women to get diagnostic tests including colonoscopies, mammograms and blood tests.
“Personally, my thought is that there’s a lot of environmental stuff that’s causing a lot of this. It’s something you have to live with and you have to try to survive the best you can, realizing you don’t have control over a lot of it,” she said.
On her last day of treatment, she and the staff celebrated by ringing the bell at the radiation center and the staff gave her Mardi Gras beads.
Realizing she was not perfect physically and that she had no control over the disease were her biggest struggles, she said.
“It’s like getting on a rollercoaster. That’s the way I really describe a lot of the stuff,” she said.
“Most people get off on the other end and they are fine. But just get on, and do what you need to do.”
Family: Kurt, husband of 26 years; two stepchildren; four stepgrandchildren
Cancer type: Breast cancer, Stage 0