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Routine Test Saves a Life

Kellie Tyndall (pictured here at an American Cancer Society Relay for Life event) was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and opted for a double mastectomy. Pictured (L to R): Audrianna Gonzalez, Maribel Rosas, Tyndall, and Paula Johnson (Photo Courtesy: Paula Johnson)

By Tim Pompey

46-year-old Kellie Tyndall was enjoying some good luck in her life for a change. After struggling with unemployment, she had finally found a full-time job with Interface Children & Family Services last March in Camarillo. As an extra benefit, the job included health insurance.

Tyndall was encouraged by her coworkers to go in and have a routine wellness check. As part of that check, her doctor scheduled her to have her first ever mammogram.

It turned out that the test may have saved her life. Tyndall had the mammogram on a Friday and received a call the next day requesting that she come in for a follow-up. “I was shocked when I got the initial phone call to come back,” said Tyndall. “The lady called me and asked if I would come in Monday and see a specialist. Obviously it was concerning.”
Tyndall took some time to digest the news, but eventually agreed to see a specialist. “There was a cluster of cells that were questionable breast tissue,” she said. “They scheduled me for a stereo biopsy.”

After the biopsy, her doctor gave her the bad news. “On a Friday afternoon, I went in to see my doctor. He told me the cells were cancerous and he wanted to schedule an appointment with a surgery clinic to weigh my options.”

Tyndall described her emotional reaction to all this surprising news. “I was in a state of shock up to the time of the surgery,” she said. “When you hear cancer, it feels almost like a death sentence. You don’t know how bad it is until you get in there.”

Because of the location of the cancer in her chest and left breast, she opted for a double mastectomy. She had surgery April 26. Today, minus radiation or chemotherapy, she has been diagnosed as cancer free.

Looking back, she realizes how lucky she was. “I had no symptoms,” said Tyndall. “I went in for a routine checkup and everything came back normal. The only thing that let me know about the cancer was the mammogram. I’m alive today because of a routine mammogram.”

Tyndall feels that it’s crucial for cancer patients to give their friends and family members permission to acknowledge cancer. “It’s important for people to realize that it’s not a death sentence,” she said. “It gives them a sense of empowerment to talk about it.”

That’s why she decided to be open with others about her cancer treatment. She sent out an email to her coworkers announcing that she had cancer. She also created a Facebook page and received a huge amount of encouragement.

The resulting support made her realize that she had a network of friends and family to rely on. She also realized that she had an important message to share. “I work with a large group of women and I felt it was important to share what was going on with me because one in four women will have breast cancer.”

As for those dreaded mammograms, Tyndall encourages women to be vigilant about scheduling the test. “Please have one,” she said. “Don’t put it off because it’s uncomfortable or you don’t have time.”

As a cancer survivor, Tyndall’s perspective has been dramatically altered. “You do have a life changing experience when you feel like you’re close to dying,” she explained. “It kind of gives you the freedom to say and do what you want to do.”

Tyndall has come to appreciate spending time with the people she loves. “It was a wake-up call,” she admits, “but I’m happy to be here. I just want to enjoy what time I have and to have quality time not quantity. Quality time means to live in the moment and to enjoy that moment.”

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