Twenty years ago, Mary Brookhart began feeling weak and fatigued. On top of that, she received a set of abnormal blood test results that at the time could not be explained by the countless local physicians she visited in Rochester, MN. Mary then went in for a baseline mammogram screening and it was discovered that she had intraductal calcifications, or small bits of calcium within her mammary glands. In other words, Mary was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Although it was suggested that Mary remain in Minnesota and seek treatment locally, Rochester was more than 1,000 miles away from her hometown of Conyers, Georgia. Mary chose instead to return home to Georgia and sought treatment at the Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, which is only 33 miles away from Conyers.
While at Winship, Mary was treated by Doctor Toncred Styblo and Doctor David Lawson, both of whom she refers to as her “angels.” When asked about her opinion on her cancer treatment and care specialists with Emory, Mary remarked that she felt she was “always in the best of hands.” “It was the best decision I ever made. My care here was the best I could have had, and I loved that…as much as you can love being treated for cancer, of course!”
Aside from the comfort of expert care, Mary also kept thoughts of her mother’s past and strength close to her heart. When Mary was a teenager, her mother too was diagnosed with breast cancer. Now a happy and healthy 80-year-old woman, Mary looked to her as a source of strength in fighting her own battle with cancer.
The combination of early detection, rigorous treatment and supportive physicians and family allowed Mary to beat her cancer. She was so moved by her experience that two years ago, Mary returned to Winship. This time, not as a patient, but as a supervisor of business operations for the Emory Breast Center. As an employee of the Breast Center, she is able to serve as an advocate not only for cancer patients, but for screening mammograms and Emory’s Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer Seminar.
Now, those signing up for the seminar call 404-778-PINK and often times find Mary at the other end of the line. Having been a survivor herself, there she is able to catch patients at their entry point and make an immediate connection with newly diagnosed cancer patients in a time when the need it most. Her advice to patients embarking on their cancer treatment journey? “It’s OK to be afraid and mad, and for your emotions to go up and down. Just take it one day at a time.”
Mary is a truly exemplary and commendable breast cancer survivor and we admire her strength and desire to help others experiencing what she went through continue to fight the fight for survivorship.