Yearly Mammograms Likely Saved Linda Bays' Life
March 22, 2022
Linda Bays is known throughout Richlands as a reliable volunteer. She volunteers at Legacy Hospice, has tutored at Cedar Bluff Elementary School, helped establish and lead a youth group at Richlands Presbyterian Church for over thirty years and served on the Board of Directors for Richlands Citizens for the Arts for more than twenty years. Linda is the wife of retired Richlands dentist Dr. Thomas Bays and the mother of Hannah Bays Keene.
After a routine mammogram at Clinch Valley Health in September 2018, Linda was diagnosed with breast cancer – the exact diagnosis her sister Pam received and sadly, ultimately succumbed to in 1991 at the young age of 40.
During the early days of her diagnosis and treatment Linda often thought to herself, “How can this be happening, right now?” She had roles to fulfill as a wife and mother and things to take care of to support her family. Her only child Hannah had just gotten engaged, and they were busy planning her wedding. Her husband was retiring from his longstanding dental practice. She didn’t want to miss a moment of these important life changes and thanks to the team at Clinch Valley, she didn’t have to.
Linda had a screening mammogram on a Wednesday, an ultrasound the following Friday, attended a bridal fair on Sunday and had her lumpectomy on Monday. While her life plans and health changed significantly in less than a week’s time, she was able to rely on her care team and the support of her family to navigate all the upcoming challenges and disruptions to her plans. Her husband offered a brighter, and loving perspective, sharing: “It is perfect timing, I am able to go to every appointment with her.”
There’s no doubt that Linda’s annual mammography screening may have saved her life and she attributes the early detection of her cancer to Interventional Radiologist Vijay Ramakrishnan, MD and the team of imaging professionals at Clinch Valley Health.
Dr. Ramakrishnan encourages everyone who may be eligible to use mammography screening as an early detection tool: “I can’t stress enough the importance of having mammograms yearly. We can identify subtle changes in breasts and find those tiny cancers at their earliest and most easily treatable stage. Linda had been having regular mammograms which allowed us to pick up on a slight change in her breast tissue. She was able to undergo a lumpectomy and only had to have a small amount of breast tissue removed. Linda’s case proves how beneficial regular mammograms are in the early detection of breast cancer.”
Linda recalls leaving the hospital after a long day of chemotherapy grateful that she wasn’t facing a two-hour drive home. She found comfort in seeing familiar faces of friends and neighbors who provided her care. “It never occurred to me to seek treatment anywhere else,” she recalls. “Everything I needed was available right here.”
Radiation Oncologist Marcus Brown, MD said, “It is significant to be able to offer patients radiation therapy services close to home. Time is a valuable and irreplaceable resource. When patients spend less time traveling for treatments, they have more time to spend with their loved ones or however they choose. Our department is staffed with well-qualified, caring professionals from our community who serve the people of our community.”
Close friends of the Bays family, Gynecologist Tim Presnell, MD and his wife Sally, visited the night Linda received her cancer diagnosis. Dr. Presnell had encouraged Linda to work with Clinch Valley Health’s hereditary cancer coordinator because of her family history; even though Linda was fearful it would reveal a gene change associated with hereditary breast cancer.
Clinch Valley Health’s Hereditary Cancer Coordinator, Leanne Keen, serves anyone who has a significant personal and/or family history of cancers. Leanne said, “Surveillance and prevention are vital for anyone at a higher risk for hereditary cancers. Those at an elevated risk for hereditary cancers could benefit from determining what risks they face and what prevention or early detection measures can be taken. In patients who already have a cancer diagnosis, it could help determine treatments that will work better for them.”
Fortunately, once Linda overcame her fear, and underwent genetic testing she found that she did not have a genetic risk and therefore could proceed with the planned course of treatment.
Over the course of eight months, Linda underwent four chemotherapy and thirty-three radiation treatments at the Clinch Valley Cancer Center, finishing her treatments and ringing the bell on her 65th birthday. “That was a good present,” she shared. “I highly recommend anyone facing cancer to count on Clinch Valley Health for great care. I am so appreciative of the support, compassion, and kindness that the healthcare teams showed me throughout my cancer journey.”
When asked what got her through her cancer journey, Linda says that her strong faith, first and foremost, as well as her strong support system of her family, friends, and church family. Linda said, “You have to keep your joy, no matter what.”
Linda, and so many patients like her, rely on Clinch Valley Health for quality cancer care close to home. The Cancer Treatment Center at Clinch Valley Health offers a range of diagnostics, therapeutic, support and rehabilitative services to patients and their families in a friendly, compassionate environment with a dedicated and experienced team.
For more information on the Cancer Treatment Center at Clinch Valley Health, visit https://www.clinchvalleyhealth.com/cancer-care.