For many people, the thought of going anywhere, especially a medical office, during the current pandemic can create a feeling of uneasiness and concern. This is certainly normal, however we would like to reassure our listeners that there is no reason to delay mammograms if your local imaging centers are open and your state re-opening guidelines allow for them.
Laurel Pointer is the Sr. Manager of Internal Communications at Susan G. Komen. She has been with the organization for 21 years and has deep ties to the breast cancer community. As the daughter, niece and cousin of breast cancer survivors, she is committed to the mission of Susan G. Komen and ending breast cancer forever.
Laurel is married to Karl, a Texas high school football coach and teacher. While they don’t have children of their own, they think their former and current players as members of their family. On weekends Laurel can be found cheering on “her children” at the high school, college and pro levels.
For many people, the thought of going anywhere, especially a medical office during the current pandemic can create feelings of uneasiness and concern. This is certainly normal. However, we would like to reassure our listeners that there is no reason to delay mammograms. If your local imaging centers are open and your state reopening guidelines allow for them, hospitals and imaging centers are taking precautions to ensure patients are safe and may have made changes to mitigate the risk of infection and allow for social distancing here to share her recent screening experience and why it is so important to take charge of your health by scheduling routine screenings and getting any worrisome symptoms checked is Laurel Pointer. Laurel, welcome to the show.
Laurel (1:10): Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Adam (1:20): Well, I’m really excited to talk to you. Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the breast cancer community.
So my name is Laurel Pointer. I’m currently the senior manager of internal communications at Komen. I have a long history with Komen even before I started here. So when I was in my first job ever out of college, I was working with a group of ladies who came up to me one day and said, Hey, we’re going to do this race and you’re going to do it with us. I said, well, if you know anything about me, I don’t race. And one of the ladies said, no worries. I crossed the finish line with a shopping bag and Starbucks in my hand, every time we do it, I said, okay, that, that, that I can do turned out that it was the national race for the cure for Susan she’d come in. And I’d heard about them all my life and because I grew up in Dallas and so I knew a raced for the cure, but I’ve never really been a part of it.
So I joined the ladies on the team and literally did cross the finish line with a shopping bag and and the Starbucks in my hand. And it was a great experience just to see people there supporting breast cancer survivors, the entire, you know, community of Washington, D C coming together for a joint cause. And that was over 25 years ago that I did that exactly. One month after I crossed that finish line for the first time my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, you immediately was like, okay, I’m in it to win it. And you know, and the race became even more important. A few years later, I’m going to just back to that, my husband was like, well, what do you want to do? Honestly, I really want to work for something that means something to me and I wanted to make a difference. So I applied at Komen and I’ve been there now for 21 years.
Wow. That’s amazing. So I love the story of how you were introduced to Komen and then being there for 21 years, that’s pretty fantastic and very, very special. So that’s, that’s really amazing. And so you’ve got a little family history, of course, with your, with your mom having been diagnosed, are you more closely monitored than, than you wouldn’t be otherwise? And then just going through your annual screenings?
Yeah, actually, and since my mom was diagnosed, I’ve had four other immediate family members diagnosed as well. And when my mom was first diagnosed is I asked the doctor as to do, do I need to be screened because I was really, you know, I was in my twenties at the time. And he said, no, not yet. And after my aunt was diagnosed and my gradient was diagnosed again, I asked the question. I said, are we ready to talk about the testing? And he said we’re not there yet. He said you don’t meet the kind of cancer that your family members have had. Don’t really relate to BRCA one or two. And so we’re going to wait a while. And then about three years ago, after my youngest cousin was diagnosed at the age of 39, the doctor said there are different genetic mutations that we can look for.
I know you don’t meet the BRCA one or two, but let’s look at some of the others. And so several of us went through the genetic testing and found that we have the check two mutation. Where as BRCA one and two are you know, ovarian cancer and breast cancer; check two is colon cancer and breast cancer. So we have to be very diligent in those situations. The interesting thing is my youngest cousin who was diagnosed with breast cancer, doesn’t have the mutation, but the rest of his do. So it’s a very unique situation and the interesting thing is, you know, like 20 years ago when we started this process, we didn’t even know about check two. So we’ve seen the changes that have happened in breast cancer research and in treatment throughout these years. So yes, I am much more aware. I was always concerned in the past, but now that I know that I have this mutation, I’m even more diligent about making sure that I get my mammogram, that I’m aware of what’s going on with my body, that I know changes that are happening so that if anything were to come up, I could go in a, running to the doctor and go, okay, now what?
Yeah, that’s good. That’s good. And so knowing that you have that positive gene, I mean, walk me through those emotions and what is your, what’s your screening like now?
I always knew that I was at risk and now I just know that it’s even more of a heightened risk. So I try to pay attention to that. Every time I go in for a mammogram just, you know, after working at Komen events, I always come in with a game plan. I walk in going, okay, if this is the time, if this is the moment, if this is the, you know, something comes out of desks where either I have to have more testing or we find that, yes, this is the time I have breastfeeds, or I have my plan in place. I want my surgeon to be, I know who I want my oncologist to be. I know all the questions that I’m going to get running and ask the education team at Komara, or I can look on kemin.org and see what those answers are. So there’s always that moment then you don’t really exhale until you get the call say all clear.
Yeah. Yeah. I’d imagine that’s a long moment to live in into. So, so let’s talk a little bit about, you know, this time during the pandemic it was recommended that for awhile, that women wait to go to their screenings to ease the demand on local medical facilities, but the States are starting to reopen. It’s now becoming recommended that women receive their mammograms, if it can be safely done. And if, if that, that particular area is open I know that you recently had a screening, I believe. And can you tell us just a little bit about what that experience was like? So our listeners can know what to expect and what was different from normal.
First of all, the minute that we got the all clear and incent, yeah, go, go get this. And I was already two months behind. And so I, you know, I was listening to dr. Sledge say, now’s the time to go on one of our webinars. And as I’m listening to him, I ever here online trying to get my appointments. One of the things I noticed is, you know, usually you had to book, you know, a month or two in advance in order to get in. Well, they could get me a, basically the next day because no one was gelling, but he had been told to stay home. So I was like, great. I’ll take that appointment tomorrow and, and running, get it done. So one of the things I did, all those questions that they usually hand you, you know, that put board and you have to fill out all those forms ahead of time.
Well, we did that all online. Some of it, they sent me a couple links and I filled it out online. Other things she just asked me right then and there on the phone and then gave me my instructions to go in to the imaging center for my mammogram that day, I call my mask and go walking down the hall and, you know, there’s hand sanitizer run outside the door. So, you know, use the hand sanitizer. And I walked in and it kind of reminded me of the grocery store these days, where you’ve got the arrows taped on the floor. Right. And I look around and, you know, usually there’s, you know, 10, 12 people in the room. I was one of two. I no sooner got to my seat and was ready to sit down with. The lady came to take me back. And again, you know, had to follow the era’s she had on her mouth.
She walked me back, you know, that part’s coming normal. But when it was time to do the screening, it’s already uncomfortable and math and strange, you know, in some ways, you know, that you’re just wearing a robe and you’re going into this room to do your mammogram, but to do it with a mask on, and then your technician has a mask on itself. It just put a new, strange reality, I guess, to it, you really are living in a new world, but I was like, if that’s what it takes, you know, it’s just, it will vary because at one point that’s all you’re wearing is, you know, your, your shorts or your jeans and a mask. And the lady commented about that. And, you know, and we had a good little joke about it and she was really sweet and calming. Then the process was normal.
It was just going through the normal steps and doing that. And then he’d go get dressed. And then off you go and they tell you that, you know, if there’s an issue, they’ll call you within 24 to 48 hours. If not, you’ll get a letter in the mail. And so you usually just are waiting during that time for that letter. And literally 24 hours later, the phone rang, which panicked me and I’m like, Oh no, this can’t be good if they’re calling me. But they were kind of telling me that it was all clear and that’s, that’s so strange. And she said, we have time right now because we don’t have the backlog. So we’re reading the screenings faster. And we had that chance to give you that personal touch of calling you and letting you know that it’s okay versus waiting. I love that. Yeah. So it was odd. Good. All at the same time.
That’s great. And so let’s talk just a bit about your family members that are actively undergoing breast cancer treatment. Do they have more guidelines in place and how has their treatment changed under the code?
Yeah. I have an aunt who is metastatic and currently going through some rounds of chemo. And my mom lives down the street and my mom goes to all my aunts appointments with our, instead of, to be no big deal. You could always have somebody with you not only to drive you, but to walk with you and sit with you and is you’re in the chemo room. And those roles kind of changed at the moment. They’ve cleared it with the doctors that my mom can go and sit with her because my mom, you know, has been through this too and understands a lot of what’s going on. And as long as she promises to wear her mask, while they’re sitting in the infusion room, everything is good.
Hmm. Yeah. I can imagine last question. Do you have any advice for women that are nervous about going into an office for their mammogram during this time? And why is it important that they go anyway,
My advice is go if it’s within your year and you’re up for your mammogram, or you’ve been delayed in it, schedule it, go do it. And the importance of that is, you know, breast cancer, not all breast cancers grow at the same rate, sun grown much faster. So the sooner that you get in, you know, either you’re going to get the all clear and you can breathe easy, or if they find something the sooner you find that in the better off you are. So don’t take that chance. I’m waiting for it to grow just another month. So it’s just another six weeks. Sometimes that mother six weeks can make a difference. Not always, but sometimes. And so, you know, why take the chance if you are in an area that they say can get it, and they’ve got availability and they’re asking patients to come in, be reassured with back that, you know, they are taking all the precautions in the world to make sure that those places are clean. One of the first questions they asked me when I got there was, do you have a temperature? Have you felt that, you know, they run through the kind of questions they’re going to make sure that anybody who walks in that door is taken care of. So don’t do it.
Adam (13:03): That’s right. That’s right. Go do it. Go do it. Don’t delay. Don’t delay. So Laurel, this was great. Yeah. Thank you for sharing your story. I know that’s not always easy and thank you for the work that you’ve done for so many years with Komen and the impact of his making on so many thousands and thousands of people.
About This Episode
Intro and outro music is City Sunshine by Kevin MacLeod. Ad music is Trusted Advertising by David Renda licensed from Fesliyan Studios Inc.