Mandy Reese, age 41, is a busy mom of three and Radiology Tech at Buena Vista Regional Medical Center, who now also carries the title breast cancer survivor.
In 2020, Mandy received her annual mammogram reminder from BVRMC. She decided it was time to get her mammogram scheduled, especially since she worked in the same department.
An abnormality was found during a routine screening mammogram and additional imaging was recommended due to the location of the mass. While cancer has been a part of Mandy’s 20 year career, her experiences came full circle when she received a breast cancer diagnosis.
Not only having to cope with the reality of having breast cancer with three young kids, she also had a very difficult decision to make.
Reese met with Dr. Jason Dierking, BVRMC General Surgeon, to discuss her next steps and found comfort in his expertise and standard of care. “Dr. Dierking walked me through the process and discussed all of my options. He supported my decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy with reconstruction,” Mandy says. “His office helped make the referral process to my specialist a smooth one which gave me peace of mind on my steps moving forward.”
In December 2020, she had a bi-lateral mastectomy where they also placed the expanders for her next procedure. Later she would do breast reconstruction by putting in silicone implants during a second surgery. The process showed her that every case is different and she had to have faith and confidence in her providers when making decisions that could affect her longevity.
“While it is not a common practice for most breast cancer patients, I always told myself, if breast cancer ever happened to me, I know what I am going to do. My mentality was to have them (breasts) both gone so I didn’t have to worry every year.”
Four weeks after surgery, Mandy started chemotherapy at BVRMC. It was calming knowing she would be well taken care of by her coworkers in the BVRMC Oncology Department.
“Going through this whirlwind during the COVID-19 pandemic when I had to go in to treatments by myself, made me feel at home being with a team I knew and was comfortable with,” expresses Mandy. “I didn’t feel so alone.”
The transition from seeing patients to being a patient gave Mandy a newfound appreciation for the journey someone with cancer undertakes. Her personal experiences have only strengthened her passion for the work she does.
Each step along her path to recovery was an emotional one, but Mandy was determined early on that she was going to make her journey a positive one.
“A lot of what has gotten me through this roller coaster is attitude,” she said. “It was important for me to stay positive and come out smiling on the other side.”
Mandy credits her friends, family, employer and co-workers for helping her get through her cancer treatments and providing support throughout her journey. Mandy said her employer, BVRMC, was so understanding and flexible during that time.
“They didn’t have to keep my job for me. I am so thankful for everything they did to keep my position because having these things happen and losing your job on top of that would have put the icing on the cake,” Mandy explains.
While Mandy didn’t put off her annual screening, prolonged delays in breast cancer checks have increased significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Don’t put off getting your mammogram,” states Mandy. “A little time makes a huge difference.”