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Berea woman finds unexpected encouragement during cancer treatment

Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 7:06 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month to draw attention to a disease that affects one in eight women.

During the pandemic many women put off their annual screenings, which doctors say if you did, you should get your mammogram scheduled now.

It’s no secret that a mammogram is a woman’s first line of defense in detecting breast cancer.

It was something Margaret Tilsley of Berea knew, but admits she put off. “I knew I was way behind on my mammogram and I had meant to call,” Tilsley said.

When her doctor sent her for a bone density scan, she inquired about a mammogram and they worked her in.

“If she hadn’t done that that day, I don’t know when I would have got back in and my prognosis would not be nearly as good as it is,” said Tilsley.

This past July that overdue checkup revealed a lump and eventually cancer.

For the last month, Margaret has been coming to CHI Saint Joseph in Lexington for her radiation treatments, greeted by something that makes her smile.

“It makes the treatment room more inviting, it creates a fun and friendly atmosphere,” said Cristi Ballard, radiation therapist.

The team has decked out their high powered machine that delivers radiation with eye lashes and lipstick kissed lips, a little fun to ease a sometimes stressful situation.

“Then you look up and you see this big smile and the thing about a smile is you cannot give one away because if you smile at someone they are going to give it right back,” said Tilsley. Patients looking up will also find bible verses, the ceiling tiles offering another source of strength and comfort.

It’s an important piece of the process Cristi Ballard says she is honored to provide.

“Everyone has their own journey, if I can be a light in someone’s journey it makes my heart so happy,” said Ballard.

Margaret Tilsley found a lot of support and encouragement along her journey, a sterile room turned fun to calm her in the moment.

A journey that has now ended with her ringing the bell, signaling the completion of her treatment.

Tilsley has a simple message for other women. “Ladies get your mammogram. Be proactive, get it before it gets you,” said Tilsley.

Kentucky Cancer Link partners with the Yes Mamm program through CHI Saint Joseph Health to connect women who are uninsured or underinsured get the mammograms they need.

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