"Those people saved my life."
A youthful sixty-two, Charis Keeler is grateful to the Women's Imaging Center at Berkshire Medical Center. She says simply, "Those people saved my life."
Late in the spring of 2006, Charis (rhymes with Paris) had something to worry about. After her annual mammogram, she remembers, "They called me back and said it was suspicious. They asked me to come and redo. They did an ultrasound and then did a biopsy of the suspicious area. On June 7, I found out I had cancer."
In the face of Keeler's rising panic, she heard reassuring words. "It's just a bump in the road," Dr. Lisa Loring told her. A radiologist who specializes in women's imaging, Dr. Loring added, "It's going to be okay."
Later that month, Keeler had a lumpectomy (on June 21). After the surgery, she sat down with the chief of radiation oncology at BMC, Wade Gebara, MD. "He assured me the margins were good, that the carcinoma was contained, there was no invasion. Then I went every weekday morning at ten o'clock for thirty-three radiation treatments." Throughout, she says, "It was like I was the only one who had an issue," she says. "I wasn't one of pack. It was myself and them. I can't tell you what it did for me. Whenever I had to have a procedure, there was always someone extra there to make me more comfortable."
On the day of her last treatment - she remembers that date, too, October 3 - "They gave me a carnation and a bunch of hugs and I went home." She gets either an MRI or a mammogram at six-month intervals and today is cancer-free. Although she reports her blood pressure is a little high ("But that's under control"), she has gone back to living her life. She does offer one observation for other women: "If I hadn't been going for mammograms? This would not be a good story."
Born in Buffalo, New York, Keeler arrived in Berkshire County at age one with her family. She grew up in Lanesborough on her father's dairy farm and today lives in a home she and husband built on twelve acres of land that were a part of that farm. Both of her grown sons were born at what was then Pittsfield General. Now retired, Charis Keeler and her husband are NASCAR fans and enjoy fishing and their periodic visits with their sons and grandchildren, who live Colorado and Oregon.