Health Team

Cancer survivor reaches out to others

Posted May 14, 2009 4:08 p.m. EDT
Updated May 14, 2009 6:56 p.m. EDT

— When a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, going through treatment can be a lonely experience. However, it may not be so lonely if you knew someone who had been in your shoes.

At Rex Hospital, the experience inspired a patient to become a nurse and offer other breast cancer patients more than the usual treatment.

Nine years ago, Leslie Middleton, 44, was an X-ray technician. She said she knew the importance of annual mammograms.

“It was three months after my last mammogram that I found my own lump,” said Leslie Middleton, Rex Oncology nurse.

Suddenly, she had to make some difficult decisions.

“That was probably the hardest thing, trying to choose the right or the correct treatment,” Middleton said.

She had a mastectomy and six months of chemotherapy. Middleton later decided to have her other breast removed, in an effort to prevent more cancer.

“My son was 8-years-old and I just wanted to do everything I could to be here today,” she said.

After treatment she volunteered at the Rex Cancer Center and discovered her calling.

“I wanted to jump in and be there and help. So I decided to go back to nursing school,” Middleton said.

Middleton said she wanted to do it for women, like Dana MacNally, who felt overwhelmed as she began her first cancer treatments last year.

“To a certain extent, I felt like my whole life was put on hold, just because I really had to focus on this,” MacNally said.

Most days, MacNally keeps her own experience with breast cancer to herself.

“I don't plan on telling anybody ... (sometimes) the moment just comes when I think that they need to hear it,” Middleton said.

That moment came with MacNally.

“It is comforting to know someone who's been through it,” MacNally said.

Seeing Middleton alive and well can sometimes help cancer patients look past their treatment.

"To know that their hair will grow back and that they're going to have a normal life, they're going to get through this, they're going to be healthy again,” Middleton said.