Breast cancer was an unexpected curveball

In 2012, a routine mammogram turned into something Elizabeth Dailey did not expect. But the procedure enabled her cancer to be detected early sparing her the pain and expense of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Photos by Henrietta Wildsmith.

Breast cancer survivor Elizabeth Dailey knows firsthand the benefit of regular mammograms.

In spring 2012, the SWEPCO budget analyst went for what she imagined would be a routine appointment, however, it turned out to be anything but.

She’d had annual mammograms for the past 12 years and knew the process well. Therefore, she thought nothing of it when she received a certified letter asking her to return for additional screenings.

“I had received such a letter before, so I was not overly concerned,” she said. “I went for the follow up, which consisted of additional mammograms and an ultrasound.”

When the radiologist asked her to come back for a biopsy, it raised a red flag. This was not normal. It meant there was something in her breast they needed to test.

“I immediately called my sister; I cried; I prayed; I was scared,” she said. “Once home, I tried to act like getting a biopsy was normal, no reason to alarm anyone.”

Then she got the news no one wants to hear – the tumor in her breast was cancerous.

“I was stoic on the phone but quickly broke down upon hanging up,” Dailey said.

Her husband Mike, who had been there for the biopsy, told her everything would be OK. The diagnosis was a curveball they had not expected but they had each other and their faith.

She knew surgery was necessary and talked to her gynecologist about her options. She also knew she needed outside advice on what lay ahead.

 “I began to call breast cancer survivors I knew looking for words of wisdom,” she said. “I asked a lot of questions and listened to their stories.”

On May 8, 2012, she had a bilateral mastectomy to remove both breasts. 

Elizabeth Dailey encourages every woman to pay attention to her body, get mammograms and know their family history of breast cancer. 

“After the surgery, I was informed the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes,” she said.  “This was great news.”

And the news kept getting better.

The next month her oncologist informed her that her Oncatype score was low, which meant she was a low risk for reoccurrence.  This meant she would not need chemotherapy or radiation.

Her mammogram had enabled them to detect the cancer early sparing her the pain and expense of those treatments. Her final procedure would be reconstructive surgery in September.

“To this day, I continue to see my doctors, oncologist surgeon and plastic surgeon on a regular basis,” Dailey said.  “I encourage every woman to pay attention to your body, get your mammograms and know your family history.”

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