With the youngest of two children moving out for college, Cheryl Michelet and her husband were preparing to be empty nesters for the first time in 21 years. After two decades of kids’ activities flooding the calendar, they had plenty of ideas for how to spend their new free time. Life, however, threw a curveball when Cheryl was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer in June 2020.
Cheryl had never missed a mammogram, and her results were always clear. In 2018 she found a dry spot on her breast that went away with a simple medication, but after a year of unusual health concerns, she knew something still wasn’t right. “My arm started hurting. I thought it was a rotator cuff tear and started physical therapy. When that didn’t help, I had an MRI and it showed an enlarged lymph node,” Cheryl said. She had another ultrasound with clear results, but her arm continued to swell. She then went to her primary care doctor who sent her to breast specialist, Dr. Mary Christian, M.D.
A biopsy led to Cheryl’s diagnosis, showing the cancer had reached the lymph nodes. Dr. Christian then referred Cheryl to Dr. Kellie Schmeeckle, M.D., medical oncologist, at Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. Cheryl chose to receive her treatments at the Cancer Center on Essen Lane, which is a convenient drive from her home and work. As a patient of the Cancer Center, she also has access to all of the benefits of the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion, a partnership with Woman’s Hospital where experts from each location come together to offer the highest quality comprehensive cancer care.
As a media and public relations professional, Cheryl is used to staying busy and meticulously planning her time. Her cancer journey forced her to slow down. When feeling weak after chemotherapy treatments, Dr. Schmeeckle took time to talk with her and help with a plan for getting through remaining treatments. “It worked. She made it so it’s less of a battle, and she let me know I’m strong enough to get through it,” Cheryl said. “I can’t say enough great things about Dr. Schmeeckle.”
Cheryl finished chemotherapy in early October and will undergo a full mastectomy later in the month. After recovering from surgery, she will start seven weeks of radiation with Dr. Jingya Wang, M.D., radiation oncologist. Cheryl will continue infusions until June 10, 2021 when she will happily ring the bell signaling end of treatment.
Cheryl’s main advice for others is to trust their instincts. Breast cancer doesn’t run in her family and only a small percentage of patients experience a type of breast cancer that is not visible on mammograms or ultrasounds. “If my case can be an example that helps someone else catch this insidious disease earlier, it would make me feel better about going through all of this,” she said.
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and you can support local breast cancer patients with free preventive screenings through the annual Geaux Pink campaign. Fundraising programs such as Geaux Pink help provide breast cancer screenings and other services at no charge to women in the community. For more information on screenings, visit the Breast & GYN Cancer Pavilion website to learn more.