In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 21, 2019

From Colleagues to Friends to Breast Cancer Survivors

By In the Loop

Lindsay Stromback and Melanie Peterson met as colleagues but quickly became friends. That friendship became an invaluable support system when they were diagnosed with breast cancer just months apart from each other.

When Lindsay Stromback and Melanie Peterson met several years ago in a medical secretary training program at Mayo Clinic, they quickly discovered they lived in the same town and had children the same age. But "what they could not have known," says Mayo Clinic Radio host Jacob Strand, M.D., "is that they would share a life-changing journey as well." That journey began after Lindsay, an associate clinical research coordinator at Mayo Clinic, discovered a lump in her breast.

"I didn't even think to do a self-exam until a co-worker of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer through a routine mammogram," Lindsay tells Dr. Strand and co-host Tracy McCray on a recent Mayo Clinic Radio show. After finding a lump, Lindsay scheduled an appointment with a doctor right away. "I was told it could be hormones and to come back if it didn't go away." When the lump was still there three months later, Lindsay went back for more testing. A week later, she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. "It definitely was not what I was expecting at 36," she says.

Melanie was the first person Lindsay told about her diagnosis, and it prompted Melanie to do a self-check of her own. "I found something that felt like nothing I'd felt before," Melanie, a project assistant at Mayo Clinic, says. After waiting a month to make sure the lump wasn't related to hormones, she mentioned it to a provider during a primary care appointment. "I had a diagnostic mammogram the same day," Melanie, then 39, says. "I knew when I left that day."

The next months would be a blur of treatments for both women. For Melanie, that meant surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. For Lindsay, it was surgery and chemotherapy. "We supported each through text messages probably 80 times a day," Melanie says. "We went to each other's chemo. I think we were there for firsts, lasts and everything in between."

In spite of the difficulties of their diagnoses and treatments, Lindsay and Melanie believe that in a way, they're lucky. "It's bad to say that we were fortunate, but I think we really were," Melanie says. "You have that person who knew exactly what you were going through at that time. We both have amazing friends and family, but you just don't know what you're going through until you have it yourself. You just can't beat having a friend."

Today, both women have finished treatment and say their futures look bright. "My prognosis, they tell me, is really good," Lindsay says. "I'm about the same," Melanie says. "I should be cancer-free for a long time." That good news has prompted another shared experience. "We are going to Scotland with our husbands in a few months," Melanie says. "Just to kind of celebrate this whole last year." (Hae a guid journey.)

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Tags: Breast Cancer, Dr. Jacob Strand, Employee Stories, Lindsay Stromback, Mayo Clinic Radio, Melanie Peterson, Patient Stories, Tracy McCray

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