Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 15, 2013

Survivor hopes others will get mammograms

Woman diagnosed with cancer five years after discontinuing annual exam.

By Ken de la Bastide Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — If Norma Lunsford-Hale’s experience with breast cancer can help one person, she believes what she went through was worthwhile.

Lunsford-Hale, 61, had not been getting an annual mammogram. She stopped about five years before she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010.

“No one in my family ever had breast cancer, so I didn’t see the necessity of getting a mammogram,” she said. “I was doing self-examinations.”

While on vacation in Tennessee, Lunsford-Hale discovered a lump on her breast, something she said seemed to come up overnight.

“I had a gut feeling that it was breast cancer,” she said, “but I had high hopes that it wasn’t.”

Lunsford-Hale went to her doctor when she returned to Kokomo and was told she needed a mammogram and ultrasound.

“They did a biopsy right away and the doctor said he was sure it was breast cancer,” she said.

Less than a month after the diagnosis, Lunsford-Hale had a lumpectomy performed which included the removal of five lymph nodes. Those were found to be free of cancer.

She then underwent four chemotherapy and 30 radiation treatments before being told she was cancer free in 2011.

“I was relieved,” Lunsford-Hale said, exhaling a deep breath. “I thought, ‘Thank the Lord.’”

She now gets a mammogram every six months.

Her 42-year-old daughter also gets an annual mammogram.

“You can’t help but think it’s a death sentence,” Lunsford-Hale said. “I asked God, ‘Why me?’ Then you come to terms with it and realize, why not me?

“If I can help one person with everything I went through, it was worthwhile,” she said. “I tell everyone to get a mammogram. Don’t be like me.”

She didn’t tell her husband, Lehmon Hale, about the lump on her breast until they returned to Kokomo from their vacation.

“She didn’t want to bother me while we were on vacation,” he said. “Everything has been good so far.”

Cancer was not a new experience for the couple.

Lunsford-Hale lost her first husband to pancreatic cancer and both parents died from lung cancer. Lehmon Hale’s first wife also died of cancer.

The couple, who were married in 2009, attended the same church and had known each other for years.

“We started going out to dinner, fell in love and got married,” Lehmon Hale said.

Lunsford-Hale is a long time employee of St. Joseph Hospital where she works as a housekeeper.

“They remind me every year that it’s time for my mammogram,” she said.