When April Bostic was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year, a sense of irony underscored the emotional jolts she experienced.
Employed in the medical field for 21 years, Bostic, 45, is a radiologic technologist and administrator in the CAMC Teays Valley Imaging Department in Hurricane.
“I have no family history of breast cancer, but I’m a mammographer by trade, so I’ve been very well aware of the how early detection saves lives,” she said.
“Ironically, I’ve found myself on this side now, so it’s been quite a journey thus far.
“My best friend and I have a buddy system to get our mammograms; we made a pact to do it since we turned 40. Every year I’m on time with my mammograms, but this year, COVID-19 vaccinations pushed us about six to nine weeks after the second vaccination.
“I’ve never been good at self-examinations, so my mass would have never been found that way, but it was discovered through 3-D mammography,” she said.
When Bostic’s 3-D mammogram was performed in late March, a 1-centimer mass was detected in her breast. “It was diagnosed as a Category 5, which is the highest level of suspiciousness. Right off, from my professional experience, I knew this was going to be something, but I didn’t know how nasty it would be.”
Her physician called her back for a magnification view of a specific area of concern. A subsequent biopsy on April 1 revealed invasive ductal carcinoma.
“Even being a mammographer, I know what it looks like on a film, but this was past the care in my area, and I was unaware of what happens after that. It’s a gut punch in itself, and the word ‘cancer’ is scary to hear — it’s scary even to say it. My first words were, ‘My gosh, this was not on my radar.’”
Bostic underwent a lumpectomy, followed by 12 weeks of optional chemotherapy treatments. She started radiation treatments two weeks ago.
The Putnam County resident said she is committed to sharing her experiences with women and men alike, including spreading reassurance of the compassion and competence of those providing treatment through her self-described “roller coaster ride.”
“The compassion of health-care workers in this field starts from the front line of this process. We come to work every day and do this every day; there’s a level of compassion these folks have in their everyday job. There are people we have to comfort on a daily basis, because it’s scary for them. It’s the unknown. These folks show a compassion like no other. They’re trying to expedite things so you have answers in a timely manner.
“Once you have a diagnosis, it’s like a whirlwind, and these folks are ready for that, ready to set you up on a plan to fight and cure this. You’re given this family of people, and the team rallies around you as they decide your care plan.
“During this whole process, time is what’s most painful, the waiting,” she said. “While waiting on a result, our minds can make up a thousand things that aren’t going to be, and time allows that to happen. Especially early on, time is the enemy, in the mind specifically.
“During chemotherapy, luckily, I didn’t have anything but tiredness. Chemo has come a long way; only 30% [of patients] get actual side effects from chemo. ... When chemo takes your hair, that’s a brutal one. Not because of vanity, honestly, but more so because it’s a daily reminder when every time you look in the mirror, there’s cancer looking right in your face. That’s when it’s good having a therapist on your medical team to talk through this with. That’s been an important piece of my team.
“It gives you a whole new perspective,” Bostic said. “I’m a spiritual person, and it’s put me in my Bible more, honestly. It’s brought me closer in my faith, because, man, you have to have faith this is all going to work out.
“From the very beginning, I knew I needed to figure how this is happening for me rather than to me. I think it’s finding the purpose in that. It’s put me on a platform for encouraging early detection and people getting their mammograms.
“A co-worker was diagnosed with breast cancer two weeks after me and we’re on Facebook discussing it, telling people it can save their lives,” she said.
“I’ve always been a positive person, so I’ve tried to put positive spin on it, especially with my family, friends and co-workers. I tell them it’ll be fine and it’s all going to work out. I just feel all we can do is save others, tell our story and tell people to get their mammograms. It’s not as painful as anything that comes down the line if you don’t,” Bostic said.