Story and photographs by Deb Peterson
“I always prayed, “Take me any time or any way, but not by cancer,” says Charlotte Fredericks, 85, of Mountain Home.
When her annual mammogram last March showed a small shadow, she went home, sat in her easy chair, and started sorting through her things.
“I was throwing this, keeping that,” she says. “I felt like I was going to die, and I wanted to take care of Bonnie.”
Charlotte’s Bonnie is Bonnie Fischer, RT-R-M (Radiologic Technologist-Radiology-Mammography), the mobile mammography coordinator in Baxter Regional Medical Center’s new, first-of-its-kind in the U.S., 3D Digital Mobile Mammography Unit, a 40-foot vehicle that serves 2,500 women a year.
Bonnie and Mobile Mammography Assistant Carolyn Cason visit more than 80 sites annually, making mammograms accessible to women by bringing the procedure to businesses and parks across north central Arkansas. Other mobile units in the state serve 1,600 women annually, Bonnie learned at a recent meeting at the Susan G. Komen Foundation in Little Rock. Why the difference?
Bonnie will tell you it’s because she’s on the road more often. Her customers will tell you it’s because her mammograms never, ever hurt. She has a devoted following because of that, and that’s good for women.
“The ladies in outlying communities just love it,” Bonnie says.
Bonnie chalks her gentleness up to experience and caring. She’s been driving an MMU for BRMC for 12 years, but has been at the job for 37 in Maryland, Ohio, and California. When pressed for her secret to a painfree mammogram, she explains that it’s all about how the patient is positioned in the machine.
“The compression paddle doesn’t have to scrape down a woman’s chest wall,” she says.
“It may not have even shown up on the other machine,” Bonnie says.
Charlotte’s doctor gave her two choices—take a biopsy or wait six months and take another image. Charlotte chose to wait, but by early May, her breast had started to hurt “just a little bit,” and she thought she could feel something in it.
She went in for the biopsy, and was diagnosed with infiltrating ductal carcinoma, one of the most common of the seven types of breast cancer described in Corinne Hiser’s column on the following page.
“It can happen that fast at any age,” Bonnie says.
Charlotte was lucky. Her cancer was found so early that it could be treated with a lumpectomy, the removal of five lymph nodes, and radiation.
She took only one day off from volunteering at the front desk at BRMC, where she’s known as “Granny.”
“I’m not a bit worried about it anymore,” Charlotte says. “You’ll have to put up with me a little while longer. Now I want to live to be 100. If you want to, you better get your mammogram.”
The MMU is supported in part by grants from the Komen Foundation, and by the BRMC Hospital Foundation. To schedule your mammogram in the MMU, call 870-425-2666 or 800-485-1745.
M! ON 2012