'My battle encouraged the family I love to take care of themselves'
Linda Ortman 68, Gibsonton GOAL: Through sharing my story I hope to stress the importance of family support when battling any form of cancer. I also hope to spread the word that mammograms save lives. I am living proof. WHY I DID IT: In 2010, during a routine mammogram, I was told I had lump in my left breast. The news came as a shock to me and my entire family, especially since there was no history of breast cancer in our family. Hearing the word cancer is always scary, but with the support of my family, I was hopeful I could beat it.After a mastectomy, I learned the cancer was aggressive and was told my time was limited. With my longtime partner passing away only five days after my diagnosis, I knew I had to lean on my family (which includes my fraternal twin sister, my daughter, two sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren) more than ever. I would also find support from my doctors and nurses at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology. HOW I DID IT: For my 33 radiation therapy treatments following my surgery, a close friend referred me to Dr. Jack Steel at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology. The doctors and nurses there became a second family, and I credit them and my family for getting me through the toughest times in my life. My twin sister, Diana, and I meet every Tuesday for my cancer treatments, the final step toward my recovery. Today, I am two chemotherapy treatments away from fulfilling my treatment plan. Diana will be by my side for both. HURDLES: Despite completing my treatments following my mastectomy, my ordeal worsened when a follow-up appointment revealed that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I scheduled surgery to have 13 lymph nodes removed. Cancerous cells were also found and removed from my lungs. GOING THE DISTANCE: I am hopeful that my story will encourage other women to schedule mammograms, and this is exactly what Diana and my daughter have done. They are currently cancer-free. I also do my best to spread the word that mammograms are important and am the first to refer my friends to my doctors and to provide advice on treatment options and medicine. I am glad my battle encouraged the family I love to take care of themselves. I expect them to be around for a long time to come. BEST ADVICE: I am living proof that routine mammograms can save lives, and that is one of the most important messages to share. Many people think that without a family history of the disease, they will avoid the diagnosis but, unfortunately, that is not the case. I also again want to stress the importance of having family support and great doctors and nurses. I do not know where I would be if I did not have my family or the team at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology to lean on throughout my battle.
I Made It is a regular feature highlighting individual health success stories. To share your story, visit TBO.com, search Lost It; or email firstname.lastname@example.org; or mail to 4you, The Tampa Tribune, 200 S. Parker St., Tampa FL 33606.