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Breast Cancer Patients Can Find Hope, Support From Many Places

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Courtney Paolillo and husbandAs a working mother of six children, Courtney Paolillo knew a thing or two about balancing a busy lifestyle. From dropping the kids off at school and running errands to managing her busy schedule as a real estate agent, Courtney’s days were constantly spent on the go.

It felt as though it all came to a grinding halt the moment she was diagnosed with breast cancer. At the age of 41, Courtney was in the fight of her life, faced with the most dangerous and aggressive form of breast cancer. Only two weeks had passed since she had first noticed a lump in her breast.

“I couldn’t believe how quickly my life had changed,” said Paolillo. “One minute I’m sitting in the carpool line and the next I’m at the doctor’s office being given the worst news of my life. From that day on, I experienced many ups and downs through the course of my cancer journey.”

Having now completed four rounds of chemotherapy and undergone a double mastectomy, Courtney’s heroic story is a familiar one for the team of oncologists at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center. Since 1971, the Cancer Center has been caring for patients, improving survivorship and lessening the burden of cancer for communities across Southeast Louisiana and Southwest Mississippi.

Every October, National Breast Cancer Awareness Month gives Mary Bird Perkins’ Prevention on the Go team the opportunity to shine a spotlight on this disease and emphasize the importance of screening and early detection. One in eight women in the United States is diagnosed with breast cancer. In Louisiana, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer among women. Even so, when breast cancer is detected early, it can be nearly 100 percent treatable. Regular screenings are the number one way to prevent breast cancer deaths.

Genevieve F. Maronge, M.D.“Early detection is key when it comes to successfully treating breast cancer,” says Genevieve F. Maronge, M.D., a Northshore-area oncologist who will soon join Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington. “Fortunately, after Courtney noticed a lump in her breast, she acted quickly to schedule an appointment for a screening. I encourage all women to get a clinical breast exam at least every three years, starting in their 20s, and get an annual exam and mammogram starting at 40.”

Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, takes a comprehensive approach to cancer treatment, extending beyond the four walls of the Cancer Center. Whether fighting breast or any other cancer, it’s important to strengthen a patient’s body, mind, and spirit while also supporting those who serve as their caregivers. For this reason, the Cancer Center in Covington is now offering an array of new support groups for people battling cancer on the Northshore. Through these groups, patients can share their stories with others facing similar challenges, learn new coping strategies and find encouragement as they navigate their cancer journeys.

Courtney PaolilloBeginning this month, the Breast Cancer Support Group, Facing Cancer Together Support Group, and Caregiver Support Group will all be meeting at the Cancer Center located at 1203 S. Tyler Street in Covington. Anyone impacted by cancer is welcome – these groups are not limited to Mary Bird Perkins patients. Those preferring to join virtually may participate via Zoom.

“My husband, children, family and friends all rallied around me, but at the end of the day, they never experienced cancer firsthand,” said Paolillo. “I was fortunate to have someone to talk to who was a little further along in treatment. I found it really helpful and therapeutic to share my story with her and others who were going through the same challenges. I encourage anyone battling cancer to consider taking part in one of these support groups.” 

To learn more about support groups, contact Maeghan Jacob at (985) 875-2234. For more information about Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center in Covington or to schedule a free screening appointment, please visit marybird.org/covington.