By Mr. David M White (Army Medicine)May 23, 2017
Cheryl Elms had a routine mammogram, just like the American Cancer society says she should. She's glad she did.
Elms, at age 44, had breast cancer.
Elms is an LPN at Connelly Clinic where she "screens services members from all branches before they're seen by providers." She's been at Connelly for five years. For three years prior, she served in the Family Medicine Clinic.
"I had the mammogram in December 2015 … 'merry Christmas, right?'" she said. In February 2016, she had a lumpectomy and started 14 rounds of chemotherapy the following March.
Through the power of the chemo … and 33 rounds of radiation therapy … Elms, now 46, is cancer free.
"I saw the X-ray" following the mammogram, she said. "I knew by the shape of the shadow" and the urgency of the clinical staff that it was cancer.
Still, she had to wait for the official word once the radiologist read the X-ray. She waited by the phone at her mother's house.
"It's weird to be told by phone that you have cancer," Elms said, but she was supported by her mother, sister, and two children, a son, 19, and daughter, 16.
Although her breast cancer was listed as Stage 1 and it was caught early, Elms opted for an aggressive approach, but "I was scared of the chemo."
And the treatments did what she expected.
"I was really sick," she said. "Lost my hair, too." (She wore a wig once, in the summer. "Sweat rolled down my bald head," she said. She didn't wear the wig again.)
But she did get better and her hair came back … this time with perky salt-and-pepper curls not the straight, dark hair she had previously. And, most importantly, she's free of cancer.
The American Cancer Society's Relay for Life of Augusta recently chose her as the kick-off speaker for their annual run last month at Westside High School.
Aside from a few remaining additional treatments, she's back at work full time. She wears a compression sleeve on her right arm to help recover from the removal of some lymph nodes that was also part of her treatment. The sleeve sports a black-and-white pattern reminiscent of a Peter Max illustration from the '70s. It's Elms' way of trying out a tattoo without the commitment.
Now, she's happy to be back at work with her Connelly family.
"The Connelly staff's support has been awesome," she said. "They called and texted me regularly."
She's noticed other things that are different -- better -- in her life.
"I like to take pictures of 'things,'" Elm said. "Flowers ... Clouds ... Things we may not appreciate.
"Now," she said with a slight smile, "I appreciate the little things."
And, maybe, the photos let her hold onto the little things for a little while longer.