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Conroe Regional mammography tech’s second breast cancer battle provides insight into disease

October 3, 2018

When Conroe Regional Medical Center mammography technician Debbie Martin returned to work after completing chemotherapy for her second breast cancer battle, she was taken aback as a patient exclaimed, “Debbie, you’re back,” as she made her way to the imaging department.

“I park on the other side of the hospital, walk past the outpatient lab area and I always say, ‘good morning,’ to the patients who are waiting there,” Martin explained. “When that patient called out to me, it was my first day back and neat she recognized me, knew my name and that I had been out. She must have had a mammogram during my time when I was out for treatment. It meant a lot to me to have the welcome back.”

As a mammography tech at Conroe Regional Medical Center for the past 20 years, Martin has always stressed the importance of yearly mammograms, early detection and keeping track of any changes that could indicate there is a problem.

This mission is even more important to her as she battles breast cancer for the second time, having just completed chemotherapy at the end of July.

“When I see a patient who is really upset about their test results or told they have an abnormal mammogram, I share with them my breast cancer journey and encourage them to reach out to me if with any questions or if just want to talk,” Martin said. “I want to make sure they don’t feel like the only ones going through this. Early detection, yearly mammograms and paying attention to your body is so important.”

Martin was first diagnosed with breast cancer 14 years ago.

“I underwent a lumpectomy and that was all that was required at that time. Although it was invasive cancer, it did not go outside of that one area,” Martin said. “My second time I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I began to notice a change in my skin and called my doctor. The tests came back positive for stage two breast cancer which had always spread to a few of my lymph nodes.”

Martin also added the second breast cancer diagnosis revealed it was in the exact same spot as first cancer, but that it was a different type of cancer.

“The first cancer was estrogen and progesterone positive but this second time it was only estrogen positive,” Martin said.

Martin also had a double mastectomy and underwent chemotherapy.

“Now I’m just waiting for the hair to come back,” Martin said laughingly.

Martin’s first bout of breast cancer was detected through a mammogram that showed micro-calcification. Through a biopsy, the doctors determine that she had invasive ductal carcinoma.

“With this second breast cancer diagnosis, I could not go through radiation because I had it with my first breast cancer diagnosis so I knew I would have to undergo chemotherapy,” Martin said. “During the scans, they also found pre-cancer in my other breast so I had no other choice than to have a double mastectomy.”

As for advice to others who have received a breast cancer diagnosis, Martin states that while it is overwhelming, at first, she encourages them to talk about it, rely on the doctor’s advice on different treatment options that are available and choose what they are comfortable with going forward.

“One thing that was very helpful to me was recording everything the doctor and I talked about so I could listen to it later and absorb what the doctor was saying,” Martin said. “I work in this field and even I was confused by a few things he said. It is great to have the ability to record the conversation, replay portions to make sure I know what is going on and know my options.”

For Martin, she credits her breast cancer experiences as learning opportunities she could bring back with her to the imaging department at Conroe Regional Medical Center.

“Being diagnosed with breast cancer and working as a mammography tech, it helps you have a better understanding on what the patient is going through,” Martin said. “It makes you more empathetic for their situation. When I came back after treatment, I wouldn’t say it was hard or easy, I just had a better insight into my patients.”

jennifer.summer@hcnonline.com

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