Personal Story: Bettye's Cancer Diagnosis Gave Her a New Perspective on Life

Bettye's diagnosis made her grateful for and more aware of the importance of each day. No matter how old you are or how much life experience you have, nothing prepares you for a cancer diagnosis. That’s how Bettye Fowler, 74, of Magnolia, NJ, felt when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2015. She worked for the NJ Department of Youth & Family Services for 30 years and retired in 2003. “I felt like my life was full, and then everything changed,” she says. “I always looked at cancer as an ending to life, but the diagnosis gave me a new perspective.”

Bettye was diagnosed with infiltrating lobular carcinoma of the left breast. This is a type of breast cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands (lobules) of the breast. Infiltrating lobular carcinoma means the cancer cells have broken out of the lobule where they began and have the potential to spread to other areas of the body.

Bettye underwent a lumpectomy of the left breast and reduction of both breasts. She then had 4 rounds of chemotherapy—one every 21 days—radiation 5 days a week for about 2 months, as well as several visits with a physical/occupational therapist.

Bettye was able to receive all of her care at Virtua thanks to a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. Her doctors included a breast surgeon, radiation oncologist, hematologist/oncologist, and a plastic surgeon.

Bettye can’t say enough about the care she had at Virtua: “Everyone was always nice, positive, friendly and helpful. During my treatment, every person on staff was eager to help with anything I needed to make my visit more pleasant,” she says.

“This diagnosis changed my life by making me more aware of the importance of each day,” she explains. “I still get a little fatigued, but that’s it. I am truly grateful for each day.”

The response she got from those closest to her affected her the most. She recalls: “I received overwhelming support from my family, friends and sorority sisters. I never had to ask—they were always there, doing whatever they could. I now try to help others in any way I can without waiting to be asked.  

Updated September 28, 2017

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