It all just happened so quickly,” said Kay Plummer Graves, who came to Fitzgibbon Hospital in mid-October for a screening mammogram using state-of-the-art 3D technology. Within 24 hours of that 3D mammogram, doctors had identified a suspicious area as likely cancer and called her with the news.
“When Tim (Ryan) called me and told me I had a malignant tumor in my left breast, I thought, ‘Oh my God, what am I going to do?’” said Kay, recalling her reaction to the phone call. Tim Ryan, D.O., is Kay’s primary care physician and is a member of the hospital medical staff.
Kay said her doctors credit the 3D exam at Fitzgibbon for finding the lump in the earliest – and most treatable – stage.
“Even my doctor said I would never have felt it. But it showed up on the 3D mammogram,” she said, adding that she had no family history of breast cancer.
Kay described the lump as a ductal carcinoma in situ, which is the most common form of breast cancer. She added that doctors told her the spot was “encased in a sac,” and she needed a biopsy to confirm it was indeed malignant. Undergoing a lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tissue was her choice of surgical treatment.
She then had a number of other decisions to make: where to have that surgery and where to go for radiation treatments, which will reduce the chances of the cancer recurring.
“That’s when I decided to come back here and have Dr. Roy (Elfrink) do it,” she said. “I didn’t even think about going anywhere else. Why would I? There are just so many things here at Fitzgibbon that I just don’t think enough people appreciate it – or use it. I’m having radiation here, too, as a precautionary thing. I think I’m having 16 treatments.”
Kay’s first husband, John Plummer, died of a brain tumor in 1989. So she is no stranger to the rigors of cancer treatment.
“I mean, we had to do all that with John, where I had to drag myself to Kansas City for the day for six weeks. It was exhausting,” said Kay. “Now we have all that here, so why would I go anywhere else? I want to work. I can go right out here to Fitzgibbon. So I schedule my radiation for 9 o’clock in the morning and then can be at work in the afternoon. You don’t have to take a whole day.”
Kay says the convenience of having procedures and treatments locally was a big factor in her decision-making. She works in the Saline County Recorder’s office and is very active in the community. She is former president of the Marshall Chamber of Commerce and was selected Marshall’s Citizen of the Year in 2014. She is active in PEO, the Monday Club, the Noonday Optimist Club and is an Ambassador for the Marshall Chamber of Commerce. She is a former chair of the raffle committee for the Fitzgibbon Hospital Auxiliary and continues to be an active member.
Kay underwent her first radiation treatment at the Fitzgibbon Cancer Center on Dec. 7 and described the experience as “no big deal.”
“It took longer to take my clothes on and off than it did to have the treatment,” she laughed. “It was slick.”
Kay has a very positive attitude about her treatment plan and stresses the convenience and speed of having procedures in Marshall.
“I knew within two weeks that they got it out, and it was going to be OK. They checked my lymph nodes, and they were OK,” said Kay. “I mean it was that quick. They got me right in and right out. I’m just doing radiation treatments just as a precaution.”
She added that while some may feel awkward being treated medically by people they know, Kay said she found it very comforting.
“You know, your life is only as good as the people you know and the people you’re around. You’re not just a number here at Fitzgibbon,” she said. “They were all just tremendous. And the Cancer Center is such an asset.”
If she has one word of advice for other women, it may sound like a common advertising slogan: “Just do it.”
“Don’t put anything off: your mammogram. It’s such an easy process. It’s 30 minutes out of your day,” she said. “It’s such a little thing to do, but it’s such an important thing to do.”
The 3D mammography unit was installed in early 2016 and was made possible, in part, through fund-raising events sponsored by the Fitzgibbon Hospital Foundation and the generosity of donors.