Breast cancer survivor shares story, emphasizes importance of regular screenings

Published: May. 19, 2023 at 12:24 PM EDT
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ROCKINGHAM, Va. (WHSV) - The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force has long said women can choose to start breast cancer screening as young as 40, with a stronger recommendation that they get the X-ray exams every two years from age 50 through 74.

Sherrie Morris of Rockingham says she has no family history of breast cancer, and previous screenings had come back clean. But, she says life had gotten in the way of regular appointments, so her doctor recommended she come in.

“Knowing that in my mind that I didn’t have breast cancer, I wasn’t alarmed it was just getting it done. A day and a half later they called and wanted to do another screening, and then that afternoon they called and said they needed to do some biopsies,” Morris said.

Morris and her husband Clifford were driving when they got the call that she in fact had breast cancer.

“Even though it was said, ‘You’re very lucky, we caught it early, the treatment looks good for you.’ But it was rough,” Morris said.

Dr. Emily Ritchie is a radiologist with Sentara RMH Funkhouser Women’s Center and says cases like Sherrie’s are not uncommon, as many women have missed regular appointments in light of the pandemic, fear of results, or various other reasons. On the other hand, she says they are also proof of the importance of early detection.

“We want to identify it while it’s small, very early stage, stage 1 and you can have minimal treatment, great outcome, very little quality of life problems and be cured of breast cancer,” Ritchie explained.

Morris went into surgery in January, just a few weeks after her diagnosis, then came radiation treatment. While Sherrie was recovering, her husband had a conversation with a neighbor who was all too familiar with the battle Sherrie was facing.

“She said well I had a double mastectomy in 2015. And so she visited or called everyday,” Morris said.

Morris says although their cases were different in severity, the two women bonded over their survivorship. Then came a physical item signifying sisterhood.

“When my radiation started, she made me a quilt and this quilt has hearts on it. One reason is that women are the center, the heart of the family. She made some hearts for me to place each time I completed treatment and I had 20 treatments. Once they were all pinned on then she took the quilt back and sewed them back on. So it’s a reminder of what we finished, what we completed, and how we’re looking forward to ahead,” Morris said.

Sherrie Morris and her neighbor share a bond over surviving breast cancer, this quilt...
Sherrie Morris and her neighbor share a bond over surviving breast cancer, this quilt represents their sisterhood(Sentara RMH)

Morris will be on hormone therapy medication for the next five years, along with periodic checkups. Looking back on her experience, she says she has one important message for women who may be putting off their screenings.

“You have that mindset that this is something that’s not gonna happen to you and you don’t feel any pain. But that doesn’t mean there’s not something there,” Morris said.