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 Wellness

Helping patients with cancer find their new normal

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“Ever since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve been trying to continue to live my life,” said Beth Mills. “People who I work with and my friends in general, they don’t understand the importance of normalcy when you’re going through this.” 

For Beth, that means daily walks with her husband and their two dogs along Pennsy Trail, shopping with her daughter Emily who’s a freshman at Greenfield Central, and the escape of a great book. 

“Reading is a big part of my life,” she said. “Everybody should read because your imagination is so much bigger than any movie you could go see.” 

Beth said she inherited her love of books from her mom, who always spent her weekends reading in the swing in their backyard when she was growing up. “She was always engrossed in books,” Beth said. “I remember thinking, what’s so great about books? Then I found A Tree Grows in Brooklyn when I was in fifth grade, and I’ve been in love with them ever since.”

Tell it to me straight

Last March, at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Beth noticed a firmness and redness in her breast. She was worried she might have an infection or a rash. So she reached out to her OBGYN, who scheduled a mammogram.

The doctors recognized her cancer immediately. “I didn’t know they could diagnose you with just a mammogram,” Beth said. “I thought they’d need a biopsy. The doctor came in and said, ‘I’m sorry to tell you. You have cancer.’”

Her thoughts immediately turned to Emily. “It’s strange. I didn’t think about myself. I thought about my daughter, and the sadness of having to tell her.” she said, “She’s enduring her most impressionable years right now. It still makes me emotional thinking about that.”  

Next, Beth met with surgeon Dr. Timothy Goedde, who informed her that she had a rare form of the disease called inflammatory breast cancer that only shows up in about 2% of patients. 

“I’m the kind of gal you just need to be straight up with,” Beth said. “Dr. Goedde was great from the get-go. He let me know how it’s going to be. He told me it was aggressive, it was rare, but it was curable.” 

Finding strength close to home

Beth credits her team at Sue Ann Wortman Cancer Center and its proximity to her home in Greenfield with her ability to hold onto some sense of normalcy over the last year. It takes her just eight minutes to get from her door to her treatment. 

“Being able to go back and forth like that to the hospital, it’s weird to say, but it’s a normal thing,” she said. “ Every other Wednesday, I go get my chemo, and they just make it so easy to check in. It’s like you’re going to see part of your family, and they’re going to take care of you.” 

She knows she has a long road ahead of her, but Beth remains optimistic. She said she learned to approach her treatment with a positive attitude from her brother, who has been cancer free since fighting colon cancer at Hancock Health 20 years ago.

“He has been a rock to me, and he’s given me lots of good advice,” she said. “He told me my attitude would have a lot to do with my healing process. I believe I’m going to get better. I’m in good hands. This treatment is going to work, and I’m going to be in remission this time next year. So why dwell on the negative?” 

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