When Peggy Hanson was told she had a lump in her breast during her annual physical, she wasn't that worried. In her mid-forties with no risk factors, she surely didn't expect cancer.
"I just had a feeling that it was just a cyst and it was nothing," Peggy said. "I had no history of breast cancer in my family."
She was shocked in mid-April when Dr. David Oppert, MD, of Dubuque Surgery, gave her the biopsy results: Grade 1 breast cancer.
As she told family members the news, they quickly rallied around her.
"I told my one sister and she was calling cancer centers before I was," Peggy said. "It probably took through that weekend for it to sink in for me."
The Sherrill resident started her cancer treatment journey with surgery, followed by radiation therapy at the Wendt Regional Cancer Center - Dubuque's leader in radiation therapy.
Her team of compassionate, caring providers kept her informed every step of the way as she learned about her diagnosis and treatment plan.
"It was nice that it was convenient and close for me to come to Dubuque, since I had to go every day," she said. "If I had questions, they were always there answering them for me."
Peggy appreciated how the staff showed her how much she matters to this world, instead of being treated like just another patient or appointment.
"Sometimes the nurses felt more like family or friends," she said. "You're seeing them every day, they made it feel like you're welcome. They always said 'Hi Peggy, how are you today?' It's always nice to be greeted by your first name."
When she began to experience treatment side effects, the staff was quick to respond to her concerns and gave her multiple creams to alleviate itching or pain. They paid attention to even the smallest of details. During her first treatment, Peggy was given a bag of comfort items, like lotions, a blanket, Chapstick, and a neck pillow.
When it came time to celebrate the end of her cancer treatment, Peggy will never forget her final day of radiation therapy.
The Wendt Center staff applauded as she rang the bell, surrounded and supported by her family and friends.
"It was exciting," she said. "It's crazy how you look at something different now that it has happened to you. I still look back at it as like, I can't believe it."
Today, Peggy takes Tamoxifen and follows a six-month check-up schedule. She appreciates how closely her care team is monitoring her, post-treatment.
Her advice to anyone fighting cancer is simple: lean on your support circle and stay positive.
"The support from my family and friends and from the Wendt Center too, it meant a lot," Peggy said. "I'm the type of person I cry at the drop of a hat and the littlest thing that somebody would do, it would just make my day. I was very glad I went to the Wendt Center."
Peggy is now back to work in the kitchen at Clarke University and is excited to spend time with her husband Marc and their three children, Paige, Brooke, and Blake.
Looking forward to spending time with them made all the treatments worth it.
"I know it's just a summer - I told myself I just need to get through this summer and hopefully next summer we'll be able to get a family vacation in," she said.
Peggy credits her annual physical for catching her cancer early and encourages women to keep up with other screenings like mammograms and self-breast exams.
"If you would have told me in March I was going to have cancer, I would have said you're crazy," she said. "It's very, very important to get your screening every year. It saved my life."
To learn more about 3D mammography at Finley Hospital, visit this link.