Mary Lou’s Story: When Lightning Strikes Twice

They say lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice, but if you ask Mary Lou Edgar, she might disagree. When her adult daughter was diagnosed with breast cancer, Edgar would have changed places with her in a heartbeat, but she never really thought that breast cancer would happen to her too.

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“I had my first mammogram over 50 years ago,” she said. “Because I had dense breasts, I would go like clockwork every six months for screening. I never really thought they would find cancer.”

At 71, Edgar was diagnosed with a noninvasive form of breast cancer called ductal carcinoma in situ or DCIS. This is an early-stage cancer that occurs inside the milk duct of the breast.

Family has extra special meaning for Edgar. In 2011, she and her husband Dan founded an adoption agency to help Delaware’s children waiting for adoption to find families of their own.

Right from her first meeting with Dawn Johnson Leonard, M.D., FACS, chief of Breast Surgery, Mary Edgar knew she was in the right place.

Three of the Edgar’s five children are adopted. Being there for her adult children and grandchildren is a big part of Edgar’s daily life.

Besides supporting her daughter’s continued recovery from breast cancer, she helps care for a second daughter who is rehabilitating from a severe stroke.

“My life is less about me than the people I care for right now,” she said. “When I was diagnosed, I just wanted the cancer gone, and I knew the best place for me to go for treatment.”

She chose the ChristianaCare Breast Center at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute.

“Sharing my daughter’s breast cancer journey through all the ins and outs of her care assured me that I would be in expert hands and that I would be well taken care of there,” Edgar said.

Right from her first meeting with Dawn Johnson Leonard, M.D., FACS, chief of Breast Surgery, she knew she was in the right place.

“Dr. Leonard told me about all my options for treatment from start to finish, but most importantly, she listened to what I wanted and supported my decision,” she said.

“Considering the nature of Mary Lou’s cancer and the challenges she was facing at home, we agreed that a mastectomy to remove her right breast was her best option,” Leonard said. “This approach offered the most definitive risk reduction for cancer recurrence and the quickest recovery without further treatment.”

At the Graham Cancer Center, breast surgeons specialize in the most advanced techniques for treating all types of breast cancer. Besides traditional mastectomy, they are trained in the latest nipple- and skin-sparing techniques as well as breast conservation with an eye toward good surgical and cosmetic outcomes. By partnering with plastic and reconstructive surgeons, they can offer state-of-the-art breast reconstruction as well as breast reduction, implants and lifts.

The breast cancer care team includes medical, surgical and radiation oncologists, plastic surgeons, genetic councilors, health psychologists, nutritionists, social workers, research nurses and nurse navigators who work together to help patients and their loved ones make the best decisions regarding treatment for the best possible outcomes.

“From her first encounter, Mary Lou saw us at our best.” Leonard said. “Her daughter’s experience confirmed for her that we had all the resources in place and the expertise to take care of her cancer. She trusted our family to help her take care of hers.”