Mindy’s Big Lesson: A Teacher’s Story about Breast Cancer

“When you go to Saint Luke's, they treat you well. You matter." - Mindy Bishop

“If I don’t know about it, then I don’t have breast cancer,” repeated the voice in Mindy Bishop’s head.

Mindy, a teacher in Blue Springs, has a family history of breast cancer, so it wasn’t a surprise when her doctor recommended she start annual mammograms at the age of 35. However, anxiety prevented her from taking this advice.

After turning 40, the recommended age to begin annual mammograms, Mindy felt a pressing need to get checked. She made a motivational list titled My Reasons, as a source of courage and strength. Her list reminded her why staying alive mattered—to care for her family, friends, and students.

Despite her fear and anxiety, Mindy got a mammogram at Saint Luke's Breast Center in Blue Springs, with her My Reasons list in hand. To her surprise, the experience was pleasant and simple. The next day, her results showed no evidence of breast cancer—her scan was clean.

A year later, it was time for her annual screening. Feeling reluctant once again, she referred to her My Reasons list, which gave her the motivation she needed to schedule an appointment. This time, her results showed irregularities, causing a need for a second mammogram, ultrasound, and biopsy.

On July 2, 2020, Mindy heard the phone ring. “I found out I had breast cancer—a moment that is burned in my brain,” Mindy recalled. “I didn’t want to even say it out loud.” Mindy immediately shared the news with her husband, and then with the rest of their family.

At times, cancer made her feel like she was in a dark and anxious place, but Saint Luke’s was always there to help.

Mindy had a successful lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tissue. She was on track to begin radiation therapy as the next stage of her personalized treatment plan.

Unfortunately, she developed a severe case of COVID-19. After a two-week quarantine, Mindy unexpectedly had a sharp pain shoot down her side, which made breathing difficult.

She was rushed to the Emergency Department at Saint Luke’s East Hospital and diagnosed with a blood clot in her lungs. Mindy was hospitalized for nine days. Fortunately, she improved and returned home to recover. She was finally able to begin radiation therapy and continue her cancer journey.

“Breast cancer and COVID-19? That’s two things that both tried to take my life,” Mindy said. “Out of the three friends in my cancer support group, I was the only one left. What is my purpose? If God’s going to put me through this, there has to be a purpose.”

Mindy felt strongly her purpose was to encourage other women to get screened for breast cancer.

“We do so much as moms, wives, and teachers,” she said. “We take care of our houses, spouses, and others first. But if we don’t take care of ourselves, then none of that can happen. If I don’t take the measures needed to make sure I am OK, how can I expect my nieces and sons to do the same for their health needs? I need to set the precedent.”

To raise awareness, Mindy used social media to promote screening and saw followers begin scheduling mammograms. She hosted a 5K run. In its first year, it raised $6,000 for the Stephanie Vest Foundation, an organization that provides financial assistance for people struggling with breast cancer. Mindy started school fundraisers and sponsored a table at the Stephanie Vest Foundation trivia night.

“My cancer was small when they found it,” said Mindy. “And it had doubled in size by the time they took it out. If I had waited until I felt something, who knows if I could have been saved. Don’t wait until you feel something.”

Her doctors have taken notice of her recovery, both physically and mentally.

Mindy feels lucky to have amazing doctors, nurses, and technicians at Saint Luke's Cancer Institute that helped her through a very scary time in her life.

“Dr. Gupta called me at home at 9 p.m. one night, just to check on me and let me know that he felt confident I was okay,” Mindy said. “Donna, my amazing nurse, greets me with a smile every time I come in and helps me distribute care packages to the women fighting breast cancer at Saint Luke’s East.”

Mindy is back to teaching—both in the classroom in Blue Springs, and in the community about the importance of mammograms as early detection for breast cancer.

“When you go to Saint Luke's, they treat you well. You matter."

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