Martha Maggard and Laura Wong had known each other since the 1990s when they first met while working at the same elementary school. Maggard was a secretary to the principal and Wong was a teacher. After 11 years working together, the women lost touch after Maggard retired. The next time they saw each other was in the hallway at Memorial Hermann Cancer Center – Northeast in Humble on the first day they were both being treated for breast cancer.
Last summer, Maggard’s husband died after complications from dementia and COVID-19. Now a widow, she decided it was time to focus on her health. The 77-year-old went in for a battery of tests, including her yearly mammogram, and found out she had stage I breast cancer. After going through four weeks of successful radiation treatments, she was ready to ring the bell ending her treatment.
For Wong, this was her second bout with cancer. Five years ago, doctors discovered salivary gland cancer in her right cheek. She underwent surgery to remove the cancer and was in remission, but last year, doctors noticed something suspicious during her yearly mammogram. She underwent an ultrasound and a small pebble-like nodule was discovered, which led to a diagnosis of an invasive lobular carcinoma, which is a type of breast cancer that begins in the milk-producing glands of the breast. The cancer had broken out of the area and had spread to her lymph nodes and other parts of the body.
“My doctor suggested that I have surgery to remove the cancer,” Wong said. “I chose the lumpectomy, and the surgery was very smooth.”
In addition, her doctors told her she would also need to undergo at least 20 rounds of radiation therapy. She completed her therapy and she, too was ready to ring the bell.
On Feb. 1, both women stood in front of the bell together. Family and those who took care of them throughout their cancer journeys looked on with excitement as they read the passage written by U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Irve Le Moyne, a head and neck cancer patient, signifying the end of radiation treatment: Ring this bell. Three times well. Its toll to clearly say, my treatment’s done; This course is run, and I am on my way!
After ringing the bell three times, they hugged and went their separate ways, vowing to stay in touch.
“I had four weeks of radiation, and Laura and I both started the same day,” Maggard said. “We ended the same day, and our appointments were similar. We saw each other almost every day. It was really nice, and I hope I was encouragement to her the same way she was to me.”
“When ringing the bell, I was just thankful I was strong enough to get through it and that I didn’t have a poor outcome,” said Wong. “I’m also blessed that Martha was here with me. It was encouraging to have someone you know go through it with you. It gave me confidence that everything was going to be okay.”
Maggard and Wong strongly encourage women to get their yearly mammograms. Both said their outcomes could have been much worse if they had not had their annual screenings.
“Make sure you take care of yourself. If you feel something and you think it’s not right, get it checked out,” Wong said. “Mammograms are no fun, but if I hadn’t caught this early, I would have ended up having to undergo chemotherapy and a more invasive surgery. I’m grateful mine was caught early.”
To learn more about Memorial Hermann Cancer Center, visit https://memorialhermann.org.
To see this story covered on KHOU, visit: https://www.khou.com/article/news/health/friends-breast-cancer-treatment/285-6539fca0-72c9-4929-81bb-1997036bd9d0