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Thu, June 27

Prescott woman learns life lessons through repeated breast cancer diagnosis
Anna Badger

Anne Badger in Prescott plays her harp. (Courtesy)

Anne Badger in Prescott plays her harp. (Courtesy)

Tired of being informed she was “medically boring,” Anne Badger in Prescott almost opted out of her 2003 annual physical and mammogram.

Why waste time?

Fifteen years later, Badger is thriving in life because she opted against procrastination on her health care that up until her 61st birthday was uneventful.

That year she went ahead and scheduled the annual physical, and underwent the routine mammogram.

A day later, Badger received a phone call “that changed my life.”

Her then-gynecologist said the mammogram found “something” that needed to be checked, and she underwent a biopsy in Cottonwood. A week passed with no word.

She called the Cottonwood radiologist, and then called her gynecologist again. He asked her to come into the office.

“I will never forget that afternoon,” Badger said. “Yes, I had breast cancer, a type called Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS). I drove home in a surreal daze convinced I had just been given a death sentence.”

The first thing Badger did was call a close friend who met her for lunch armed with all sorts of information, including the name of a good surgeon who Badger called the very next day.

The options offered were either a mastectomy to remove the “multi-focal” cancerous breast, or a lumpectomy followed by five days of brachytherapy radiation. She opted for the lumpectomy performed at a hospital in Phoenix.

To her relief, the surgery and radiation treatments went well, and she was able to return to her normal schedule.

That was until 2006 — when the cancer returned to almost the same area where the tumor was removed three years earlier.

“I decided on a second lumpectomy — I’m very vain and couldn’t bear the thought of losing a body part. This time, I also had full-breast radiation which took five days a week for six weeks,” Badger said.

Recuperating from that surgery and treatment, Badger was required to begin quarterly mammograms; rather than film mammograms she was upgraded to digital mammography that offers a more detailed image, particularly for women with dense breast tissue, according to health professionals.

Once again, she started to return to her normal routines.

Then came her 2009 mammogram.

“This was a game-changer,” she said, noting this time though the cancer diagnosis was similar enough to the previous two bouts she was considered a “medical enigma.”

She was not flattered.

With the cancer again deemed to be DCIS, and in the same general area where she had the prior two lumpectomies, Badger this time was required to undergo a mastectomy.

“The whole thing was dreamlike: I remember being in no pain and refusing pain medication,” Badger said. “A well-meaning nurse finally convinced me to take an Excedrin, which I did just to humor her.”

A week later, Badger faced a complication. She was retaining fluid in the chest that then had to be drained with a “nasty-looking needle.” She underwent that procedure twice.

Despite a series of “change-ups and curve balls,” the now 76-year-old is what she calls “physically normal.”

Yet the entire process has been a “life-altering experience for me, mentally and emotionally.”

“If I had had to list the four most important things I’ve learned they would be: life is finite; always practice random acts of kindness; have a sense of humor; there are no problems, only adventures.”

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