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Breast cancer diagnosis adds deeper understanding for nurse practitioner

“I’m more than happy to share my story.”

As a nurse practitioner, Marty Sutherland has always been an advocate of regular breast health screenings. She knows how important they are.

 

When she followed her own advice in 2020 and had her yearly mammogram, she learned first-hand just how important.

 

Getting the diagnosis

 “It was right in the heart of Covid,” recalls Marty, who works at the MNPS Health Care Centers’ Berry Hill location. “My mammogram had been postponed from February to June.”

 

When she finally had the screening, her X-ray showed shadows that justified a follow-up ultrasound. A biopsy was also scheduled.

 

“Then they tell you the news,” Marty says. Despite having no history of breast cancer in her family, the biopsy confirmed that she had it.

 

Hearing that diagnosis can be overwhelming. “It just makes you swimmy headed,” she says.

The treatment journey

Because of the pandemic, Marty was asked if she wanted to proceed with the recommended lumpectomy amid soaring COVID-19 cases or wait.

 

She chose to have the surgery, which included removing four lymph nodes.

 

Post-surgery, she was prescribed oral chemotherapy but could not tolerate the medicine. Instead, she opted for a month of weekly radiation treatments. In fact, she and her husband, who has prostate cancer, took their radiation treatments together. It was grueling for them both.

 

“You are just so fatigued,” Marty says.

 

To get through it, they made sure to get their work done in the mornings because, after the treatment, they couldn’t focus. Fortunately, they had help. One of her daughters brought meals and helped in any way she could.

 

“She was always there for us,” Marty says.

 

A new appreciation

After taking three months off to recover, she returned to the clinic with a deeper understanding of what her patients experience. Having gone through diagnosis and treatment, she knows well how taxing this type of medical process can be for patients.

 

“I’ve always been empathetic,” Marty says. “But if you can be even more empathetic, I learned how.”

 

Marty continues to advocate for screening. But now she can answer questions from the point of view of the patient as well as clinician.

 

“I am more than happy to share my story,” she says.

 

A new outlook

Since her own diagnosis, her life has changed. She says that she now lives more in the moment.

 

“I don’t get hung up on the little things,” Marty says. “I try to be a positive light.”

 

Part of that includes helping get women back on track with their screenings. Because of the pandemic, many have not had mammograms since before 2020. Marty is trying to change that.

 

“I still see women who say they haven’t done anything since 2018 or 2019,” she says. As a result, she sends as many as possible for their screening. After all, she knows all too well the life-changing importance of doing so.

 

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Marty Sutherland

Nurse practitioner, MNPS Health Care Center in Berry Hill

Due for a mammogram?

Click below to schedule yours with Vanderbilt Health.

Due for a well-woman exam?

Call 615-259-8755 or schedule below with the MNPS Health Care Centers.

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