Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Vidalia woman urges others not to put off mammograms

Published 1:08 am Friday, October 21, 2016

VIDALIA — This time last year Kellie Welch of Vidalia made an unfortunate discovery following five years of procrastinating.

The then 47-year-old was getting sick.

Welch said she felt like her body was breaking down. She found a lump in her breast, and thinking it might be a cyst, she scheduled an appointment with Natchez surgeon Dr. Geoffrey Flattmann.

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“When the results came back, he said, ‘This doesn’t look good,’” Welch said. “They did a biopsy, and it came back positive for cancer.”

Finding out she had cancer was devastating, but Welch said she was lucky to have a strong family network supporting her.

“We cried it out, and then it was just kind of, ‘OK, we are in for a fight here,’” Said Welch, a member of Ferriday Church of God. “I have so much support from my family, my church family, and the people I work with are exceptional.”

Welch, who works for Natchez obstetrics and gynecology specialist Dr. Duncan Guedon, said despite working in a place where she sees people getting checked every day, she let her own mammogram screening slip by.

“It’s easy to let life get by you while you are taking care of other things,” she said. “We have people that call us a lot saying, ‘I was there last year,’ when it turns out, no, it’s been two to three years, and it blows their mind.

“When life is so busy, important things get by you, and you don’t even realize it.”

When Welch discovered she had breast cancer, she was already in stage four and treating it was going to be tougher than if it had been caught in an earlier screening.

The cancer had spread and attached to her bones and the lump had grown to the point where chemotherapy treatments were recommended to try and shrink it before surgery.

“I went through four large chemo treatments that took about six months because of so many side effects,” Welch said. “There were days where I felt like, ‘OK, I don’t know if I can continue this.’

“I can definitely see how people who have to continuously deal with cancer treatments on a longer basis, how they get discouraged and feel like, ‘I’m just tired of this scenario.’ The medicines are really rough.”

From November until May, she went through the four treatments. She said as soon as she started feeling better, it would be time for another treatment.

Her lumpectomy surgery was in April. And following her final May treatment, she found out the cancer was in remission. After taking a leave of absence in December, Welch returned to work in June.

While Welch said remission was a big victory, unfortunately because she found out she had cancer late, she’ll have to deal with the possibility of cancer coming out of remission for the rest of her life.

“I now have to maintain the medications I take, hormones and a constant barrage of appointments,” she said. “This is something I will have to always deal with because I was not keeping up with my mammograms.”

The American Cancer Society recommends women 40 to 44 consider beginning annual breast cancer screenings, while women 45-54 are recommended to get yearly mammograms. It is optional for women 55 and older to switch to mammograms every two years.

The American Cancer Society recommends women with an above average risk of breast cancer, such as family history, start earlier and continue yearly screenings.

“It is 100-percent important to take care of your health,” Welch said. “Not only for yourself, but for your family. This does not just affect me; it affects my children and extended family.

“Cancer takes over your world. If you can do anything to prevent it, do so. It can make such a huge difference if you find it early.”