Get mammograms, other annual tests, survivor says

Teresa Bennett, co-owner of Lady Lu Boutique in downtown Elizabethtown, had her first mammogram in 16 years, was diagnosed with breast cancer, beat it and now encourages others to keep their annual preventative test appointments.

Teresa Bennett always has had anxiety when it comes to anything related to medicine or doctors, so she said it was “divine intervention” in January when she finally decided to make an appointment with Baptist Health Medical Group Internal Medicine & Pediatrics’ Dr. Amanda Chism.

Bennett was extremely behind on the preventative screenings that a woman in her mid-50s should be having, she said. She hadn’t had a colonoscopy, and it had been almost two decades since her last mammogram. She didn’t even have a primary care physician.

“I was 57-years-old and didn’t have a family doctor. I felt like it was time to find somebody to be able to see and to be able to call my family physician,” said Bennett, co-owner of Lady Lu Boutique in downtown Elizabethtown.

Bennett initially got to know Chism through going with her son to the doctor a time or two.

“I had gotten to know her so I kind of felt like I could trust her,” she said, noting Chism knew already of some of her anxieties and that she was behind on tests.

“She wasn’t pushy, but I could see that she was concerned,” she said.

Bennett started with a mammogram, the least invasive of the tests. It had been 16 years since her last checkup. Within a few days, she received a call from Chism, who told Bennett they had found something, and they wanted her to come back to get further clarity.

“(Chism) was great. She was wonderful. If she wasn’t so caring like she was I probably would never have gone back. Because I am like that. Flight or fight and I would rather run,” Bennett said.

On Feb. 6, Bennett went with her daughter, Erica Covell, for additional imaging and an ultrasound.

“Dr. Amanda Chism called me that day on her way home from her office and said that she wanted to speak to me,” Bennett said. Chism told her what the mammogram indicated, but needed a biopsy to confirm. She was looking at some cancer.

“Of course, then I fell to the floor. It devastates you,” she said. “My biggest fear is they were going to find something terrible and it was happening.”

Bennett was diagnosed with early stages of invasive ductile carcinoma in her right breast.

At that point, everything started to move quickly. Bennett said Chism set her up with the Baptist Health Hardin Cancer Care team. Her surgeon was Dr. Karen Brunkhorst of Baptist Health Medical Group General Surgery & Urology. Bennett had a Lumpectomy, a surgery to remove cancer from the breast.

Following the treatment, she had 26 radiation treatments.

Because of COVID-19, Bennett had to go through her radiation treatments alone, without family. But, she said, the radiation team was great.

“Those people were phenomenal. My team I had was just unbelievable,” she said, touting Dr. Richard Seither of Baptist Health Medical Group Cancer Care and the staff.

“These people are wonderful. They took the best care of me. They gave me comfort in a time when you couldn’t have your family members with you and they treated me as if they cared,” Bennett said.

She also praised her oncologist Dr. Donald Goodin of Baptist Health Medical Group Oncology.

“The news turns your world upside down. But I had a wonderful team who were with me every step of the way,” she said. “I’m not sure what everyone’s Christian belief is, but there was divine intervention. Dr. Amanda Chism, she played the biggest role to get me where I went at the time and to walk away as a survivor.”

Following her diagnosis of breast cancer and beating it, Bennett said her next step with Chism was to go to a gynecologist. After 12 years, she had a pap smear and a few other tests.

“They came out normal, praise God,” she said. “It was wonderful going to a doctor and hearing some positive, normal news. All is OK and I go back in a year.”

Bennett said she will not be missing anymore annual health appointments. She said she’s one of the lucky ones and now she wants to help others. As a co-owner of a boutique, she said she’s in contact with many women, who were very supportive during her time of stress. She’s able to give back to them now by reminding them about their mammograms and volunteering as a person they can talk to about their own anxieties or fears.

“I would love to be of help to anybody that maybe has fears,” she said.

Bennett said she’s been asked if she is now less afraid of doctors. The answer is no.

“I still have my fear and anxiety,” she said. “But I will do what I need to do because I have learned the hard way when they recommend a test for you it’s better to go than not.”

Chism said having a primary care physician is important for treating illness but also for staying healthy and catching diseases as early as possible.

“We recognize going to the doctor can be stressful for people, so we try to work with everyone to develop an individualized treatment plan that makes them as healthy and comfortable as possible,” she said. “Thankfully, Mrs. Bennett chose to come see us after years without medical care, and she came just at the right time. Thanks to the diagnostic team at Baptist Health Hardin, Ms. Bennett’s cancer was caught early and could be treated. This is what makes being a primary care physician so rewarding.”

Mary Alford can be reached at 270-505-1741 or malford@thenewsenterprise.com.

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