Cancer Survivor Proves ‘There’s Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself’

October 20, 2014

OKLAHOMA – For Madalene Smith, handling a breast cancer diagnosis and the subsequent surgery and treatment was all about mind over matter.

Madalene Smith, breast cancer survivor

“Cancer is such a fearful word,” said Smith, 81, of Midwest City, Oklahoma. “Fifty years ago, it was a death write-off, but not so now. Chemo and other treatments are getting better and people can live normal, healthy lives. I’m just an upbeat person and believe in miracles. Your attitude means a great deal and if you have a bad attitude, your health may go downhill fast.”

Rewind 10 months.

Diagnosis

In December 2013, Smith had her annual physical at her doctor’s office but decided not to have a mammogram because she “just didn’t want to.” In March 2014, she felt a knot in her breast and received an ultrasound at her doctor’s office. The ultrasound detected something in her breast and she was sent to Mercy’s Women’s Center for a mammogram.

Smith brought her trademark positivity with her the day of her mammogram.

“That was the most wonderful experience,” she said. “The staff was so outgoing, warm and relaxed. It wasn’t depressing. Why should it be depressing? You’ve got to have something in your life — that’s my philosophy. Maybe if I was younger I would have had a different attitude.”

The following week, they performed a needle biopsy of the lump, which confirmed the breast cancer diagnosis: stage 1 small invasive ductal breast cancer. Luckily, they caught the cancer early and it was less than one inch in diameter and had not spread to the lymph nodes.

Surgery and Treatment

As a registered nurse at Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City for the last 57 years, Smith does admit to being a little biased when choosing an oncologist and a breast surgeon since Mercy has been her second home for most of her life. But, as an insider to the organization, she said she knew about the strong reputation of the breast health team at Mercy and they did not disappoint.

Smith saw Dr. Brian Boggs, a long-time breast surgeon at Mercy, and was impressed with the care he provided and the way the office staff treated her and her family. Based on her age, chemotherapy and radiation were not recommended. Instead, Boggs presented two surgical options for Smith. She opted for a mastectomy, which involves the surgical removal of the breast.

This past June, Smith underwent the surgery and said she was blessed with an easy recovery with no pain. In fact, she said she never took a pain pill after the surgery because she did not feel pain.

Following the surgery, Smith followed up with Dr. Michael Keefer, a hematologist and oncologist at Mercy, and she went on cancer-fighting medication. Her cancer is now in remission.

“I’m the luckiest woman in the world,” said Smith.

Words of Advice

While luck played a part in her recovery, Smith said she relied heavily on faith. This mother of 10 also learned a few lessons along the way, including:

  • Get your mammogram. Smith had not had a mammogram in about 10 years even though she had a sister who died from breast cancer about 15 years ago. Mercy physicians recommend a woman receives a mammogram every year beginning at age 40 to ensure early detection of breast cancer. In some instances, mammograms may be needed earlier, along with breast MRI, if there is a strong family history of breast cancer. Check with your health care provider for more information.
  • Perform breast self-exams. Smith recognizes that she should have received annual mammograms, but was thankful she performed a breast self-exam and caught her cancer early. Women should begin frequent breast self-exams in their 20s, according to the American Cancer Society. If a woman chooses not to perform a self breast-exam, the American Cancer Society recommends she remain aware of the look and feel of her breasts and communicate any changes to a health care professional. A breast change does not always indicate cancer. Also, breast self-exams do not replace the need for mammograms. Learn more by viewing the American Cancer Society’s breast awareness and self-exam page.
  • Choose the best doctors. For Smith, this was an easy decision. Mercy’s breast health program is nationally recognized and features a team of highly skilled breast surgeons, oncologists and hematologists, radiation oncologists, and radiologists dedicated to preventing, diagnosing and treating breast cancer.
  • Stay positive. Prior to the surgery, she said she often forgot she had cancer because she stayed busy and didn’t let her diagnosis control her life. She recommends everyone live her motto: “Don’t fear life, enjoy it. Live life while you have it and rest when you die.”

To learn more about Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City’s breast health services, visit www.mercy.net. To schedule a mammogram, call the Mercy Women's Center in Oklahoma City at 405-752-3500 or contact a Mercy hospital near you.          

Mercy is the fifth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves millions annually. Mercy includes 34 acute care hospitals, four heart hospitals, two children’s hospitals, three rehab hospitals and one orthopedic hospital, nearly 700 clinic and outpatient facilities, 40,000 co-workers and more than 2,000 Mercy Clinic physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. 

Media Contacts

Meredith Huggins
El Reno, Guthrie, Kingfisher, Oklahoma City, Watonga
Phone: 405-936-5766