An accidental fall down the basement stairs in October 2014 was the catalyst for Sharon Heinaman, now 67, to find out she had breast cancer.
The fall that left her with a broken left ankle, a concussion, and broken ribs sent her into a rehabilitation program. While going through physical therapy in the summer of 2015 she discovered a large lump forming in her left breast. She tried to dismiss it as an occurrence due to therapy, but she’s glad she didn’t, and she’s glad she contacted her doctor.
“I was getting near the end of physical therapy and I was doing bench press,” Heinaman, of Sedalia, said. “I had done that a couple of days, then all of a sudden a big knot came up on my breast.”
Heinaman, who is a administrative assistant at Guardsman Security, said her primary doctor, Dr. Julie Cahill, sent her for a 3D mammogram at Bothwell Regional Health Center. The mammogram results were “suspicious” so Dr. Cahill sent her for a specialized MRI at Western Missouri Medical Center in Warrensburg.
“They had the machine especially made for breasts, to do the MRI,” Heinaman said. “They got a report back on that and it did show a lump.”
Heinaman next consulted with Sedalia surgeon Dr. Stuart Braverman, who did a fine-needle aspiration of the mass to test for cancer. The tests came back positive for cancer.
“He talked with me about it and he told me that I had two options,” she noted. “I could either have my breast removed or I could try to save it. So, I decided I wanted to try and save it.”
Braverman recommended that Heinaman see surgeon Dr. Amie Jew at the University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas.
By the time she saw Jew the mass was nearly 6.1 cm (2.4 inches) in size.
“On my report I read that it was like a stage three,” Heinaman noted.
She told Jew she wanted to save the breast and they worked on a plan for treatment. Jew decided to treat the mass first and remove it later. She sent Heinaman to the Susan O’Brien Fisher Cancer Center at BRHC for a series of chemotherapy treatments.
“We have a very good, a very good cancer center here,” Heinaman said. “They are just wonderful.”
Heinaman saw Dr. Wes Triplett at the center who started her on strong chemotherapy treatment for 20 sessions and then a lighter treatment for eight sessions. Afterward, Heinaman had radiation treatments five days a week for four weeks with Dr. William Decker at the center.
“I got along with that OK,” she said. “Then I went to see Dr. Jew again and it (the mass) had went down to 1.1 cm. It had shrunk and she set me up for surgery.”
Heinaman had surgery to remove the mass Feb. 19, 2016, at KU.
“She wanted to assure me that when they did the surgery they got all of the lump,” Heinaman said. “They took two (lymph) glands out and everything was tested at that time for any signs of cancer in the surrounding area, and there was none.”
Heinaman never thought she would have breast cancer, since she has no history of it in her family.
“I’d been having mammograms every year, except, I missed that one because of my fall,” she added. “You know I had this feeling when I found this, I felt like God was showing me something.”
She said through the time of recuperating from her fall and subsequent cancer her husband Ronald Heinaman and granddaughter Victoria Heinaman, 12, have been her support.
“My husband and granddaughter were a tremendous help,” Heinaman said. “They have stood by me the whole time, they have been amazing. They have helped me out so much.”
She emphasized that women need to make sure they take time for yearly mammograms and they pay attention to changes in their bodies.
“You have to keep a close eye on it whether it’s in your family or not,” Heinaman said. “But I do know, that all my friends and everyone here they said a lot of prayers through my whole ordeal. I know that helped.”
She stressed that having a positive attitude is important too.
“You do need a positive attitude,” she said. “You can’t give up. I know sometimes it’s kind of hard, but you have to push that aside and say ‘no, I’m going to work this out.’ I have the help of prayer, and all my family and friends and that helps.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.