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Mavis Fletcher

Mavis Fletcher was leaving for vacation in July 2018 when she first felt a lump in her breast. Since she was at low risk for cancer, she waited until she returned home to have it checked. Misdiagnosed once, she could tell it was growing, and she was beginning to feel some pain.

In September, she went to Strawberry Health Center near her home in Pasadena. She was referred to Smith Clinic for a mammogram and ultrasound. Before the day was over, she was 98 percent sure it was cancer.

“I was in shock,” she says. “I don’t know the word. Overwhelmed, I guess. I’m a very healthy person with no family history of cancer. But I also felt peaceful. I had the attitude I would get through this.”

The next day, she had a biopsy, and the diagnosis was confirmed by the end of the week. In October, she started five and a half months of chemotherapy at Smith Clinic. In April, she had a lumpectomy and breast reconstruction at Ben Taub Hospital. She had four weeks of radiation treatment near her home.

She’s still in recovery and experiences some side effects. She expected to lose her hair and wore head coverings when she was around her grandchildren. She also lost her nails, but energy loss may be the most impactful side effect. She lives alone and cares for herself, though nearby family (four children and two stepchildren) check on her and bring her food.

Mavis focuses on getting well. “I followed my doctors’ and nurses’ instructions to the letter. I never missed an appointment. I’ve always eaten healthy. Now I eat cleaner. I’ve started swimming for exercise.”

Her focus is paying off. She’s in remission and feels certain she will be well. “It’s important to have a positive attitude. It’s easier to achieve a goal if you believe in it.”

Her healthcare team affected her attitude. “I’ve had excellent care. It’s a long drive from where I live in Deer Park to Smith Clinic. I thought of changing doctors, but the whole atmosphere at Smith and the attitude of the staff . . . I didn’t change. I have confidence in the care I receive here. The staff calls to check on me. Everyone is compassionate.

“If you gave me a list of things that could happen to me, breast cancer would have been at the bottom. I’m a survivor, but I want to be a thriver. I don’t want to forget this time, but I also don’t want to dwell on it.”

Until recently, Mavis worked with special-needs children and adults. “It changes your outlook. Even with cancer, you can’t complain.”