SPOKANE, Wash. - October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month in many countries across the globe. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women globally with around 1.38 million people diagnosed per year. Laura Donnelly works at Rockwood Breast Health Center in the Spokane Valley and is both a warrior
SPOKANE, Wash. - October marks Breast Cancer Awareness month in many countries across the globe. Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women globally with around 1.38 million people diagnosed per year. Laura Donnelly works at Rockwood Breast Health Center in the Spokane Valley and is both a warrior and cheerleader for those affected by breast cancer. She was originally inspired to go into imaging, specifically mammography, after her mom’s battle with breast cancer in 1989. Donnelly was diagnosed with a more aggressive breast cancer (triple-negative) in 2008 that is only found in about 15% of cases. During her journey, she continued working in mammography. Patients were taken aback when they saw someone going through the same battle next to them and who was also there to help. After a bilateral mastectomy, five months and eight rounds of chemo, reconstruction, and an endless amount of perseverance, Laura is a breast cancer survivor. The Spokane Indians wanted to use Breast Cancer Awareness Month as a time to showcase Laura as a Hometown Hero for what she’s overcome and how she supports others who are undergoing or starting their journey. We had the chance to chat with Laura to learn more about her journey, work with MultiCare, and advice she gives to other women in our community.
SI: What is your official job title and can you tell us what that entails?
LD: I’m a registered Radiologic Technologist and registered Mammography Technologist. My job entails screening mammograms and diagnostic mammograms for specific issues. I also do breast biopsies and needle localizations for patients going into surgery for a breast problem or cancer.
SI: How did your perspective towards your job change after you went through your breast cancer journey?
LD: Well, I went into imaging because my mom is a breast cancer survivor as well. She’s now 91 years young! I’ve always been passionate about women’s health. After my diagnosis of breast cancer, my perspective of my job intensified. Specifically, how important early detection is for the best possible outcome for the patient. I realized that this is where I’m supposed to be in my career and I love it!
SI: Can you share the story of your initial diagnosis?
LD: My breast cancer journey began in February 2008 when I had a breast MRI at my previous workplace. They had a new MRI breast coil and they needed 8 women (1 in 8 women will have breast cancer in their lifetime) for applications purposes. From my MRI, the radiologists recommended to repeat the exam in 6 months because they saw something that looked a bit different. Six months later I had my repeat MRI and that little something had grown almost twice in size. The radiologist said I could biopsy this area or wait another six months. I decided to do the biopsy because I was expecting my second grandchild and I wanted to put this issue behind me. I had an ultrasound guided biopsy and the results came back as breast cancer. A few weeks later my beautiful grandson, Caden Clay, was born! I initially chose to have a lumpectomy. The pathology from the lumpectomy showed Invasive Ductal Carcinoma with an aggressive subtype of breast cancer called triple-negative. Only 15% of breast cancers are this subtype. The following month I had a bilateral mastectomy. My decision to do the mastectomies was totally a personal decision, and I’ve never regretted doing this. My plan was to do breast reconstruction after my treatment was complete. I did chemo with 8 treatments which took 5 months to complete. I only missed 3 days of work during my entire time doing chemo because my blood count was terribly low. Since completing my breast cancer treatment I have two more grandchildren and I am expecting my fifth grandchild in January. If I hadn’t caught my breast cancer in its early stage I may not have known these kids. I am one lucky “Mimi” to be here to see these amazing grandchildren and who they are today!
SI: Who/what were your largest supports during your journey?
LD: My biggest supporters were my family and my very close friends. My mom and dad would sit with me after every treatment in the evening till I went to sleep. My husband would create healthy meals for me to try and enjoy. My daughter, mom, sister and my oldest grandson Jack shaved their heads when I lost my hair. My friends would leave me dinners and goodies to enjoy. I felt totally loved and cared for!
SI: You mentioned to us that you have 4 grandkids with a 5th on the way, what is your favorite thing to do with them?
LD: My absolute favorite thing to do with the grandkids is to be in my beautiful backyard doing some sort of art project in the summertime. Reading and nap time are also fun.
SI: What is a message you’d like to give women in our community?
LD: My message to the community is that early detection is the best protection. I know this has been said before but I’m living proof! Mammograms save lives. Please don’t put off your screening, especially if you have a concern.
SI: What is something our fans can do to show support during Breast Cancer Awareness Month?
LD: Be there for a loved one or a coworker that’s struggling with the diagnosis or in treatment. Just knowing that someone cares means so much!
SI: What’s your favorite quote?
LD: The quote that I had through my journey and many years later that hung in my locker at work was by Marie Curie, French-Polish physicist: “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.”