Soldier stresses early detection for breast cancer
October 21, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Oct. 21, 2009) -- October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and one Soldier knows firsthand the importance of early detection.
Staff Sgt. Elizabeth Cowie went from having breast cancer to cancer free in 30 days after being diagnosed in the spring of 2007, before she deployed to Iraq. Cowie told her story during a blogger's roundtable Wednesday.
Cowie, a California National Guard Soldier, was determined to deploy with her unit, the 1113th Transportation Company, and decided to undergo an aggressive treatment plan.
Her cancer was detected during a mandatory mammogram which was part of her unit's pre-deployment medical screening. After the mammogram and an ultrasound confirmed that a tumor was present, she went to Indianapolis for a biopsy which confirmed she had phase zero breast cancer. Phase zero is a very early stage of breast cancer. If caught in early stages, breast cancer is treatable.
Normally, breast cancer treatment includes six months of external radiation treatment, however, missing the deployment was not an option that Cowie wanted to think about.
"I made a commitment to these troops to see it through and that's what I was going to do, as long as the Army would let me," she said.
After consulting with her doctors, Cowie underwent a lumpectomy, followed by a surgery a week later and she decided on a five-day treatment called MammoSite, an internal radiation treatment which uses a higher dose of radiation than conventional external radiation.
Her family was instrumental in the support she received and they supported her in the aggressive treatment and her wish to deploy with her unit, she said.
"My family understands my commitment to duty. They said: what do you need us to do, and that was important to me," she said.
After the treatment and tests, she was found to be cancer-free. She went on to deploy with her Soldiers as scheduled.
After undergoing the treatment, she has a new appreciation for testing and people coming up with new treatments for breast cancer, she said.
Now Cowie serves as an inspiration to other Soldiers and speaks to Soldiers frequently about breast cancer and early detection.
"Early detection is key," she said. "Most people hear cancer and think the worst and that's not the case these days if it's caught early."