Regular breast cancer screenings leads to lifesaving cancer diagnosis

Laura Ham, breast cancer, Good Samaritan Medical Center

"Then I got the call from my doctor that would change my life forever."

Laura Ham didn't have a history of breast cancer in her family, exactly. Rather, Laura came from a family of what she calls "lumpy ladies." That's why when Laura went for her yearly breast cancer screening she received a sonogram as well as a mammogram.

"After years of this routine, one sonogram actually detected a mass in my breast," Laura says.

At first, the doctors didn't diagnosis the mass as cancer. However, Laura noticed in their tone something wasn't right.

"Then I got the call from my doctor that would change my life forever," she says.

The diagnosis

The doctors diagnosed Laura with the most common type of breast cancer -- invasive ductal carcinoma.

"I had no idea what to do next," Laura says. "I was like a deer in headlights."

Laura wasn't alone, however. She received guidance from the staff at Good Samaritan Medical Center and began the process to explore her options and start treatment.

"After meeting with a nurse navigator, who treated me more like her daughter than her patient, I was able to research several doctors and choose the right one for me," she says.

Laura had two qualities in mind: a compassionate bedside manner and proper credentials. She found those traits in Dr. Sandra Sanchez, a general surgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center.

"Right away I knew she was a gentle spirit, extremely smart and simply emanated care," Laura says. "I knew I could trust my life in her hands."

Together, Laura and Dr. Sanchez explored her options. Laura decided on a lumpectomy. Within a few days, Laura underwent the procedure.

"Unfortunately, my battle was not over yet," Laura says. "A few weeks later, I received another phone call."

The doctors missed some of the cancer cells during the lumpectomy surgery. Dr. Sanchez thought it would be best if Laura received a mastectomy and even referred Laura to a plastic surgeon at Good Samaritan Medical Center, one Dr. Matthew Goodwin.

"When I went to visit Dr. Goodwin, he was extremely helpful and explained the whole process to both me and my husband," Laura says. "He walked us through step by step and even showed us pictures of what a mastectomy actually looks like."

Initially, Laura settled on a mastectomy only for the breast with the cancer. But the day before her surgery, she changed her mind and opted for a bilateral mastectomy.

"If I was going to put myself through this kind of procedure, I wanted to ensure the best medical and cosmetic results," Laura says. “This also meant I would never have to have another mammogram again."

Treated like family

The surgery wasn't the last of Laura's treatment. She received four rounds of chemotherapy a month after her mastectomy, and then she underwent a hysterectomy after learning that her cancer was caused by her hormones. Finally, there was the breast reconstruction surgery.

"At times everything seemed extremely overwhelming; Dr. Goodwin and his team were there every step of the way to ensure a healthy recovery," Laura says.

After additional chemo, Laura still had a few more trials to overcome. She developed "frozen shoulder," a side effect of breast cancer surgery. Her doctors also discovered a hard lump caused by saline that was injected into her breast. The treatment for the lump meant Laura would have to take hormone inhibitors and other medications.

"After everything is said and done, I couldn't be happier with the care and attention I received at Good Samaritan Medical Center," Laura says. "They helped me get through some of the toughest experiences of my life and treated me like family rather than a patient."