LEWISBURG — A Lewisburg woman who “felt guilty to have such a good cancer diagnosis” is now encouraging other women to receive a regular mammogram.
Tamara Normington, who is now 58, has been persistent about receiving a yearly mammogram since she’s been in her 40s.
“My mother had breast cancer,” Normington said.
Her mother, Joy Schrader, is now 82 years old and is a breast cancer survivor. Because her mother and several other family members have had breast cancer, Normington has made sure to receive a mammogram on a regular basis.
“I say I got breast cancer for my 57th birthday,” Normington said.
At the time of her diagnosis, Normington was serving as a volunteer at Evangelical Community Hospital.
She and her husband, Dr. Ernest Normington, moved to Lewisburg from the Philadelphia area in 1996 when he opened a plastic surgery practice in the community.
Given her background in health care, Normington said it was a perfect fit for her to serve as a hospital volunteer.
“I was a cardiac intensive care nurse,” she said. “I worked in the ICU at Evan.”
She continues to work in the office at her husband’s practice, Lewisburg Plastic Surgery and Dermatology.
After receiving her yearly mammogram, Normington was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) breast cancer.
“It was stage zero, which was great,” Normington said. “Stage zero means it hasn’t infiltrated the ducts.”
She had a lumpectomy and subsequently received radiation treatment.
Thanksgiving will mark one year since Normington has been cancer free. She now goes for mammograms every six months and must take an anti-estrogen pill for at least 10 years due to her bout with cancer.
She maintained an active lifestyle while undergoing cancer treatment, at times riding her bicycle 15 miles per day.
Normington realizes how fortunate she is that the cancer was discovered at an early stage.
“After I got the diagnosis, I felt guilty to have such a good diagnosis,” she said. “You see people who are so sick.”
Normington feels “humbled” and “grateful” to have come through the illness so well. However, she said there were trying times following her diagnosis.
“I think it’s very scary, regardless,” she said. “I went through a lot of feelings. I was shocked that I had it. Part of you thinks ‘if I’m healthy, I just won’t get cancer.’”
Normington did have some restrictions following her surgery. As a volunteer at the hospital, she was unable to push patients in wheelchairs, as she had been doing.
Instead, she found out about a volunteer opportunity at the Thyra M. Humphries Center for Breast Health.
She now gives several hours of her time each week, making calls to remind women of upcoming appointments at the center, or contacting women in need of an appointment. The appointments could be for a variety of things, including bone density tests and mammograms.
“I call people to remind them, from 19 years old to 100 years old,” Normington said. “Some people are standoffish.”
She noted that women, at times, don’t want to schedule an appointment at the center.
“I see all these emotions,” Normington said. “I say ‘it sounds to me like you’re nervous about this.’”
At times, Normington does use her experience with cancer to encourage those she is calling to either make or keep the appointment they need.
“I’ve said things like ‘just so you know, a mammogram saved my life,’” she said.
Normington feels lucky that her cancer started prior to receiving her yearly mammogram. Had it started two weeks later, she said it could’ve been one year until it was detected, and therefore could’ve been in a more advanced stage.
“I was shocked to learn how many women my age don’t get mammograms,” Normington said. “(I would like to) get every woman to get a mammogram every year, and a colonoscopy (as directed)... These are two things women can really do to save their life.”
With tears in her eyes, Normington said she’s thankful for the care she received at Evangelical Community Hospital.
“I would never volunteer for somewhere I didn’t have 100% confidence in,” she said.
“I think Evan hospital and this breast health center are excellent,” she continued. “They are kind... It makes me cry. They are just amazing.”
In addition to volunteering at the breast health center, Normington hopes to use her experience with cancer to help women in other was.
She’s willing to speak to speak about her experiences with other women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. Normington said she can even connect newly diagnosed patients with other women who had a similar cancer diagnosis.
“I love teaching and I love helping people,” she said.
Normington can be contacted through the Thyra M. Humprhies Center for Breast Health, 570-522-4200.