Regular mammograms caught breast cancer early

Regular mammograms caught breast cancer early
Michele Steinfeld

Mammograms were part of Michele Steinfeld’s routine. She started having them annually when she turned 40 and now at age 65, she didn’t think too much about it. So, the phone call from the doctor’s office caught her off guard.

There was a little spot. It looked suspicious. She needed a diagnostic mammogram. Then a needle biopsy.

She was out running errands when she got the call from the doctor with the diagnosis.

“She told me, ‘If you’re in your car, find a safe place to pull over,’” Steinfeld recalled. “I knew what she was going to tell me, so I told her I’d rather talk to her from home. We set up a time and I finished my errands. I went to Publix and bought glazed donuts for lunch.”

Steinfeld said she was on a sugar high when she heard that she had cancer.

“I just went full steam ahead,” Steinfeld said. “I just wanted it out of me. I never cried, once.”
She was a busy volunteer, a wife, the mother of three grown sons and shifting into grandmother mode. She now has four grandkids.

She and her husband, David, both Jacksonville natives, live in the Villages of San Jose. Steinfeld, then Zavon, grew up on Lakewood Road in San Marco and attended Hendricks Elementary, Landon Middle and Wolfson High School.

When her father died in 1973, her mother opened the Shoe Rack on Hendricks Avenue, which Steinfeld helped her run for 18 years.

“Retail is in my blood,” she said.

When she and her husband moved to Milwaukee, Wis., in 1994, she got a job at Marshall Field.
Steinfeld said she never got used to the winters and “the two weeks of summer.”

“After nine long winters,” the Steinfelds returned to Jacksonville. She worked for four years at Jewish Community Alliance. She still volunteers at JCA and also at River Garden Hebrew Home and Kelsi Young Gift of Care Luncheon for Community Hospice.

And in June 2014, three weeks before her 66th birthday, Steinfeld found herself on the phone with her primary care doctor discussing surgeons. She had wanted three names, so she could check them out, but he convinced her to see Dr. Jeffrey Edwards at Baptist South.

“I had a wonderful team. I was so lucky it was caught early. They took a terrible situation and made it palatable. My oncologist told me, ‘you’re going to be fine.’ And I told him, ‘Of course, I’m going to be fine. That’s my only option.’”

She scheduled the surgery for June 25. “My birthday is June 23 and I wasn’t going to have it on my birthday,” she said.

She opted for a lumpectomy.

“There were three things I really wanted. I wanted to wake up after a lumpectomy, not a mastectomy, and I did. If, when they go in, they find out it’s worse, they’ll do a mastectomy and you don’t know going in what it will be.

“I wanted no lymph node involvement and there wasn’t.

“And I didn’t want to have a port for chemo and I didn’t.”

After recovering from surgery, she had four chemo and 33 radiation treatments.

Steinfeld said she didn’t join a support group because she had her own personal support group in her family.

“The love and support of my husband and three sons was unbelievable,” she said. Her sons lived in California, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C., and took turns coming to be with her.

“I always had someone with me,” she said. “My oldest son got family leave and moved down here and worked remotely.”

When her hair fell out, her sons said they were going to shave their heads in solidarity. “I told them I’d wring their necks if they did, so they didn’t, but then my brother David did,” Steinfeld said.

Her husband offered to go with her when she decided to have her own head shaved, but she knew they would both end up in tears, so she went on her own.

The stylist refused to shave her head, and told her she wasn’t going to let her leave wearing a baseball cap. Instead she gave her a buzz cut, a style that brought compliments from the family.

She also learned the value of exercising the days before her treatments. “You have no idea how much stress you’re getting rid of when you exercise,” she said. “Your body and mind are in a good place when you go in for a treatment.”

Steinfeld said the support of her family and her positive attitude got her through her five-month ordeal.

“Anyone who doesn’t get regular mammograms is making a big mistake,” Steinfeld said.
“Catch it early when something can be done. Don’t think it will go away, because it will only get worse.”

By Lilla Ross
Resident Community News

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