“I had never been ill before in my life.”
"I was scared to death." Laurie Mick of Pittsfield had every reason to feel that way in March of 2000. She had moved to the Berkshires only a short time before her 40th birthday, the date when she was diagnosed with breast cancer after having a mammogram at Berkshire Medical Center.
"I had only lived in Pittsfield for about a year, and I didn’t know anybody," she said. "I had never been ill in my life. I was so relieved to discover that my primary care physician could refer me to local doctors and services at BMC, and that I could be treated locally."
What appeared as a tiny speck of irregularity on Laurie’s mammogram proved through biopsy to be breast cancer at a very early stage. After undergoing surgery to remove the small tumor and radiation therapy at BMC’s Cancer Institute, Laurie went into remission. Her experience, beginning with that important first step of getting a mammography screening at BMC, has had a major impact on her life ever since.
"You couldn’t keep me from getting screened regularly," she said. "I keep telling other women this is something to embrace, it’s advocating for our health, and it’s very simple. You have peace of mind after the fact. I wish I could bottle the feeling I have once I’ve had my regular test and told I’m fine."
Laurie gets her regular mammography screening at the BMC Women’s Imaging Center, and feels so strongly about the issue that she was one of several women who participated in a community group that helped to design the Center. The educational component of the Women’s Imaging Center program at BMC is particularly close to Laurie’s heart. "When I went through my experience with breast cancer, there was no Kathy Hart," she said, referring to the Registered Nurse at the Center who works directly with patients diagnosed with illness after a radiological exam. Kathy Hart is herself a breast cancer survivor.
"Education is key for women, especially in the early diagnosis," Laurie said. "If we know that mammography is nothing to fear; that it’s right here in our backyard; that we can go and be tested and have the peace of mind that we’re healthy, then we need to let women know that."
Another message Laurie wants heard loud and clear is that the quality of care available right here in the Berkshires should not be taken for granted.