Misti Field knew she should get a mammogram when she turned 40, but she put it off for fear it would hurt.
After about a year of procrastinating and avoidance, her husband, Chief Warrant Officer 3 Chad Field asked her to just go get it done — for peace of mind.
He deployed with Fox Company, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, in March 2012. Shortly after, Misti Field, now 42, made the appointment.
“I wanted to make him proud,” she said.
Instead of peace of mind, the mother of two girls was told she had breast cancer.
“I had to tell him over the phone,” she said.
Chad Field said he sat in Afghanistan feeling absolutely helpless, while his wife was home with a then 6-year-old daughter to care for and a new diagnosis.
“I had to be the brave one and not let her know I was scared,” Misti Field said.
Further tests showed Field also had precancerous cells on her cervix, and by May, her husband was sent home to help take care of her. She quit her job in sales to focus on recovery.
This year, more than 300,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer, estimated the American Cancer Society’s Breast Cancer Facts and Figures.
After a lumpectomy and 32 radiation treatments, Field was cleared of cancer.
“Fortunately mine was caught early,” she said. “Had I continued to wait (to get a mammogram), I might not have been so lucky.”
Field had another scare earlier this year, so to further reduce her chances of breast cancer returning, she underwent a double mastectomy this month.
“Being that I have two girls at home, even a 15 percent chance is too much for me,” she said.
Looking back, she realized how silly it was for her to be so afraid of a mammogram.
“It was nothing,” she said. “I couldn’t believe I was late in getting it, because I was scared.”
This fear is common in women, said Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Powell, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center Radiology Department.
It’s the reason the department hosts an annual walk-in mammogram clinic each October in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This year’s walk-in event was held Friday.
“It eliminates their primary care physician. It’s one less person they have to talk to about getting a mammogram done,” Powell said. It also makes the test more accessible.
Three years ago at Darnall’s first walk-in mammogram event, only 29 women came in. This year, there were nearly 60 by lunchtime, Powell said. A normal day only sees about half as many scheduled appointments. She credits this to awareness and stories such as Field’s where early detection saved a life.
The American Cancer Society estimated 39,620 U.S. women will die this year from breast cancer. Only lung cancer accounts for more cancer deaths in women.
Misti Field is still recovering, but she said she’s slowly getting her life back to normal. Her family used to go running together in the evening, and she has worked herself back up to a mile.
“That’s our family time,” she said.
Instead of going back to work, she said she’s now getting involved in Relay for Life and going to nursing school — something she always wanted to do.