It was late June of this year when Julie Penrose, 48, felt a lump as she brushed her arm against her breast while getting dressed. The Springfield, OH resident called her doctor, scheduled an appointment for a mammogram and soon learned that she had breast cancer.
“When I heard about the diagnosis, I was scared and nervous. I didn’t know what I was going into and I wondered how I was going to handle this. It’s a fearful moment when you hear that word cancer,” says Julie.
Julie is currently receiving her treatment at Mercy Health – Springfield Regional Cancer Center. There, she has formed a strong relationship with nurse and breast health navigator Tracy Adrian as well as the other members of her care team.
“Their attitude makes you feel like this is so beatable. There’s a positive light about them,” Julie shares.
Julie and Tracy were already friends thanks to years of seeing each other at their kids’ sports activities. Julie says that when she was diagnosed, Tracy “took me under her wing. I’d never experienced anything like this and didn’t know anybody who had.”
As a breast health navigator, Tracy follows patients from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship. That includes working one-on-one with each patient, attending their appointments and being available for any other needs they may have. She makes them aware of available resources, including telehealth counseling services, and provides referrals to local organizations that provide exercise programs, support groups and emergency funding.
Tracy also sets up peer-to-peer support connections between patients near the end of their treatment with those just starting. Finally, she tells patients about programs that provide women with wigs, mastectomy bras and prostheses, for which Mercy Health provides financial assistance.
“Julie is my patient and my friend,” says Tracy. “She is the most positive person you will ever meet. From the beginning of her diagnosis, she’s come in every time dressed up – as a superhero and with boxing gloves. She created a giant pink ribbon she can put her head through. She’s staying positive and mentoring other ladies. To be able to go through this and keep that positivity is amazing.”
Julie and her family work together on her costumes. She says it helps ease their worry for her and the time together feeds her upbeat attitude.
“Be positive. You have the choice. You have more control than what you think,” Julie shares. “The better you react, the better the people around you will as well. That’s what I need as a fighter – people cheering me on and not having pity on me or being afraid to approach me. I want to go into this laughing, not crying.”
While COVID-19 has forced some changes in how patients receive breast cancer treatment, it hasn’t diminished the quality of care they receive.
“Because of the pandemic, someone starting chemo at this time can’t have a visitor with them in the infusion suite. It can be tough not having a support person there, so we have stepped it up to be there and support them,” says Tracy. “Having that one known person there for you holding your hand to make sure you are doing okay makes a difference and it makes us feel like we have a closer relationship with our patients.”
In October, Julie finished her initial course of chemotherapy. She will begin another 12-cycle round soon that she’ll complete on New Year’s Eve.
“I’ve responded well to the treatment and feel like I have done great,” says Julie.
Julie, who works for UPS, is also grateful she can receive her treatment locally at Mercy Health in Springfield, OH.
“I still work and commuting for care would be an inconvenience. I want to stay local.”
This decision to stay close to home has proven to be a good one.
“Tracy and the team have been so supportive, helpful and informative,” says Julie. “I feel very blessed. I am so glad to know her and so glad to be with Mercy Health.”
Learn more about the breast health services we offer at Mercy Health.
Also, find an upcoming Mercy Health mammogram screening opportunity near you: