Timely diagnosis gives more time to find timeless treasures

Debbie Adams is passionate about her faith, her family—including her husband of 35 years, two daughters and five grandchildren—and her love of buying and selling antiques.

"We love antiques from the 1700s to the 1800s. It's a great side business I have with my husband," Adams said.

Those passions took a back seat earlier this year when Adams got her annual mammogram.

"Radiologists found something suspicious in reviewing my 3D mammogram," Adams recalled. “After more tests and a biopsy, doctors diagnosed me with stage one breast cancer. 

"I never thought cancer would happen to me.  I faithfully had an annual mammogram since I was 40. I immediately worried that I would pass breast cancer on to my daughters," she said.

"I did a lot of praying."

Like many people with cancer, Adams needed expert help as she began her treatment.

"My head was foggy for days after the diagnosis. I was scared. There was so much to process during those first appointments. Thankfully, my nurse navigator walked me through each step," Adams recalled.

Mary VanCleave, RN, Breast Center Coordinator and Nurse Navigator at Carle Cancer Center, remembers helping Adams.  

"People with cancer need a guide. Their world has turned upside down. They have thousands of questions. They may feel overwhelmed. That's why our team approach is so important. We're here to help people through those uncertain times," VanCleave said.

Adams says her care team at Carle Cancer Center did excellent work. Dr. Anna Higham, MD, removed the cancer by performing a lumpectomy—a surgical technique that removes only the tumor and some surrounding tissue—and Drs. Maria Grosse-Perdekamp, MD, and Sinisa Stanic, MD, managed her post-surgical treatment. 

"Mrs. Adams has a high likelihood of a cure because we found her cancer at an early stage before it spread. The five-year survival rate is much higher when we treat the cancer early," Dr. Stanic said.

In addition to her surgery, Adams had 30 radiation treatments and takes medicine to make sure the cancer stays gone.

Adams also took a very important test to give her and her daughters knowledge to prevent breast cancer. 

“Dr. Perdekamp recommended that I get a genetic test for the breast cancer genetic bio markers.  I got tested and thankfully, I do not have the markers. I’m comforted to know I cannot pass this disease onto my daughters,” Adams commented. 

After a scary summer, Adams is enjoying this fall. She has revived strength, working full-time as an administrative assistant at Carle, enjoying her family and back working part-time in her antique business.

She has one message to every woman.

"Cancer does not discriminate. It is a life-threatening disease. But there is hope. Get a mammogram every year. Early detection is the key to survival."