My First Mammogram Saved my Life | Renee's Story
October 4, 2022
Renee Balding has a passion for adventure. Native to the Upper Peninsula, she was so grateful when her career landed her family back in Marquette, MI. And as a happily married, full-time working mother of two and Pharmacy Manager at UP Health System – Marquette, she lives a busy but rewarding life. She leads a full department of technicians, manages pharmacy medications and more, and knows how to weather the storms of life, both professionally and personally. But in the fall of 2019, life threw her an unexpected tornado without warning or preparation.
2019 also brought a big milestone for Renee; she was turning 40, which meant it was time for her first annual mammogram. Her family provider helped her get scheduled and she was off for her screening. After completing her scan, Dr. Heidi Henry, Radiologist at UP Health System – Marquette, saw some calcifications on the images and ordered additional testing and a biopsy.
Renee completed her additional testing and received the news from the medical team – she was diagnosed with triple positive, high-grade invasive breast cancer (Stage 2b). She had an initial tumor and involvement of the lymph nodes.
“I kept thinking; this can’t be happening; I don’t have any symptoms; I feel fine. This is my first mammogram – what would have happened to me if I had I put this off and waited another 6 months, a year, or even longer?”
Thankfully, her healthcare team caught it just in time to act.
Renee immediately started treatment. She had the full spectrum of imaging, biopsy, and interventional radiology, followed by 16 rounds of chemotherapy and another 12 months of targeted therapy after that. After her breast surgery, she had radiation to remove the remaining cancer that was present in the lymph nodes. Every part of her care was handled by the comprehensive team at UP Health System – Marquette Cancer Center, a Duke Health Affiliate.
“My coworkers and my healthcare team were so supportive. They helped me get through it so that I could still be a part of the great work here – and be able to take care of myself to get better. All of this happened during the middle of the pandemic – but you would have never known it. I knew I could count on UP Health System – Marquette, my family, and friends to see me through. It was easy to do the screening, and it could save your life – it certainly saved mine.”
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in the U.S., behind only skin cancers. In fact, the ACS puts the average risk as a one in eight chance that a woman will develop breast cancer in her lifetime. And according to the World Health Organization, breast cancer is now the most common cancer globally, claiming 12 percent of new cancer cases. Breast cancer is also the second leading cause of cancer death in women, superseded only by lung cancer.
While there are certain risk factors for breast cancer – including lifestyle-related risks, as well as some risk factors you cannot change, like your family medical history – some breast cancer patients have no risk factors or even any symptoms. And 85 percent of breast cancer cases are in women with no family history of the disease. That’s why early detection is so vital to finding and treating breast cancer.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so if you haven’t already scheduled your mammogram for the year, now is a great time to get it on your calendar and get the peace of mind that comes from taking charge of your health. It’s one hour a year that could ultimately save your life.
If you would like to schedule a mammogram, call Central Scheduling at UP Health System – Marquette at 906.449.1440. To find a provider, visit UPHealthSystem.com and click on the Find a Provider tab. For more information on breast cancer and mammograms, visit BreastCancer.org and CDC.Gov/Cancer/Breast.