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Breast Cancer Survivor Gives Back to Others

Theresa Taylor wasn’t looking for a new job. She enjoyed her career in risk management, first with BJC HealthCare and then at Missouri Baptist. But then an opportunity came along earlier this year that she felt “seemed just right.” In February, she applied for and was named an outreach coordinator for the Breast HealthCare Center (BHCC) at Missouri Baptist. As a two-time breast cancer survivor, Theresa realized she might be able to help others, as so many have done for her.

“I’ve come full circle and I thought this might be something I could do and give back,” said Theresa, who was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002 and experienced a recurrence in 2004. “I received all of my care here at Missouri Baptist and I’ve been very fortunate.”

Thanks to a grant from Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Theresa and her colleagues help women who might not otherwise get a mammogram. The primary focus of Theresa’s job is to work with women ages 40-64 who have no insurance or high deductibles and are unable to get a mammogram. If further care is needed, Theresa and her co-workers help these women navigate their care.

Theresa spends many of her days on the BHCC’s mammography van, as well as in the center, meeting women across the St. Louis metropolitan area and from outlying rural communities. Theresa says many women open up and can relate to her on several levels, because she grew up in a rural community.

“Every time we take the van out and educate women on monthly self-screenings, I find it gratifying to help women who have limited means,” she said. “What we often see is that, when it comes to caring for their own health by having a mammogram, for example, it’s typically the first thing women do without.”

“As a breast cancer survivor, Theresa brings compassion and empathy to this role. She has firsthand knowledge of what our ladies are feeling when they present to us with a problem in their breast, if they’re getting called back from an abnormal mammogram or if they’re being referred for a biopsy,” said Laura Reihm, Breast HealthCare Center mammography supervisor. “She brings strength and hope to our ladies as well. She can be looked at as a role model for those who are battling breast cancer.”

When Theresa was first diagnosed at age 35, she had no family history of breast cancer. “I just felt something and didn’t give it much thought at first, but I did have a mammogram,” she said.

Theresa was totally taken aback and worried after her first diagnosis. When her breast cancer recurred in 2004, she said she also got angry and wondered why this was happening to her. Thankfully, she has always had great support from her family, especially her husband, Keith, and sons, Zach and Josh.

“I’m currently cancer free and I want to do all I can to help find a cure,” she said. “Research has come so far, even in the short period of time since my own experience.” Theresa has gone back to school to take pre-nursing courses and hopes to one day become an oncology nurse. And, thanks to the support of her family, siblings and friends — whom she calls “Breast Friends” — Theresa is also active in finding a cure by participating in breast cancer awareness walks and events. “It’s a very emotional thing, doing these walks with other survivors and people I love,” she said. “It’s been gratifying to say I’m here.”

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