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Feature Article Cancer Survivor's Love For Golf Benefits Others

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Last fall as Elaine Wells of Albany was preparing for brain surgery to treat symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, she knew she needed to make sure other aspects of her health were taken care of first. That included scheduling her annual mammogram.

When Wells arrived for the mammogram, the imaging she received the latest 3D technology called tomosynthesis. This new technology is able to provide a better image to radiologists and catch breast cancer earlier, and is especially helpful for women with dense breast tissue. For Wells, the upgraded imaging found two cancerous spots on her breast that might not have been visible using traditional 2D imaging. 

“I was angry at first when I was diagnosed because I had to put my brain surgery on hold,” said Wells. “Life had to stop while I treated the cancer.”

Wells credits the advanced imaging at Samaritan Valley Imaging Services with catching the breast cancer early and getting her on the road to survivorship.

“When I set off down the cancer track, I just wanted to get it over with,” said Wells. “I expected to have both chemotherapy and radiation but since the cancer was found early, I ended up having a mastectomy and was declared cancer free. I’m having as positive an outcome as you can.”

She now takes an oral medication every day to decrease the amount of estrogen in her body and reduce the chance the cancer will return. 

Once breast cancer treatment was finished Wells could move forward with treatment for the Parkinson’s symptoms, a surgery called deep brain stimulation. The procedure can reduce the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s, like tremors and rigidity in the body.

Wells is an avid golfer and had even been a member of the Springhill Women’s Association, helping to raise money for the Samaritan Cancer Resource Center for many years at the annual golf tournament. But now Wells’ Parkinson’s symptoms had begun to interfere with her life, and she had been unable to play golf as the disease progressed. 

Wells successfully completed deep brain stimulation last spring and is slowly gaining strength. She participates in the SamFit Power Forward class for people with Parkinson’s to help manage her symptoms. After her bout with cancer and brain surgery, Wells is looking forward to becoming strong enough to play a round of golf. 

“I’ve been chipping and putting, but my goal is to go out and play nine holes,” said Wells.