Cathy Leichter was busy taking care of everyone else. In 2017, her husband was sick and needed extra help. She was also looking after her elderly mother who lived with her at home.
With a history of breast cancer in her family, Leichter was always dutiful about never missing mammogram every year.
“Sure, I was busy caring for everyone, but I also I admit I had been lulled into a sense of complacency over the years because I was always the one who got the letter saying my mammogram was negative,” Leichter said.
While cleaning up after Christmas dinner, Leichter said her daughter, Larisa, began a three-month campaign of reminding her mom to get a mammogram.
“I promised I’d schedule it right away, but I put it off a couple more months,” Leichter said.
She finally scheduled her mammogram in February at the Coletta Building at Mercy. What came next was different from what she’d come to expect: a call back asking her to come in to see a doctor.
Leichter was 68 years old when she received her diagnosis: stage two cancer in her right breast. Dr. Sara Suthers, Mercy breast surgeon, explained she could go in and remove the tumor.
“Right away I knew I could trust Dr. Suthers,” Leichter said. “She was very considerate of my personal situation with my husband being ill. I was his primary caretaker at the time. While I needed to take care of myself and get rid of this cancer, I also needed to try to schedule around his needs so I could still be there for him. She was so wonderful at providing that personalized care.”
All of Leichter’s physicians are located under the same roof at the Coletta Building on the campus of Mercy Hospital Oklahoma City. Schedulers make every effort to conveniently organize appointments with multiple providers on the same day, reducing the number of trips patients have to make for treatment.
Two weeks later, Dr. Suthers removed Leichter’s tumor. She had a quick, easy recovery. The surgery was followed by 34 radiation treatments over six weeks with Dr. Astrid Morrison, radiation oncologist.
In January 2019, Leichter met with Dr. Maryann Martinovic to talk about some pain she was experiencing in her breast. They discovered fibrous tissue – or scar tissue – growing along the original incision line.
“Radiation can often cause fibrosis or a hardening of the breast tissue for our patients,” said Dr. Martinovic, plastic and reconstruction surgeon at Mercy. “Thankfully, we have many options to help patients like Cathy address these concerns and restore their well-being.”
Dr. Martinovic planned a single procedure to remove the tissue and do reconstruction at the same time.
This summer, Leichter finally received the news she had been waiting for: she was cancer free.
“I can’t say enough about the wonderful care I received at Mercy,” Leichter said. “I absolutely loved the fact that I had an all-female team of physicians taking care of me and my breast cancer, and they gave me very personalized care specific to my family situation at the time.”
Cathy’s husband passed away in March. She said she has no regrets about all the time and attention she spent helping him while he was sick. She also wishes she gave a little more attention to taking care of herself and wants other women to do the same.
“I had all the reasons and excuses to not get my mammogram, and they were good reasons,” Leichter said. “But the truth is I still managed to figure out how to get to the grocery store every week, I still managed to figure out how to schedule a birthday party for my daughter. I could have made time to get a mammogram too.”