Pharmacy director shares advocacy lessons from breast cancer journey

Amy Benson says she believes in early breast cancer detection and seeking multiple opinions, if necessary, to advocate for one’s own health.

LIBERTY — Amy Benson, pharmacy director at Liberty Hospital, knows her family has a history of breast cancer. So, at the age of 35, she had her first mammogram.

Following the proper visit schedule, Benson said the May 2018 test resulted in the discovery of what a radiologist thought might have been a cyst.

“At that time, I didn’t feel anything, but by December of that year, I could feel it,” she said. “It was something at the back of my mind. I just felt like the diagnosis wasn’t right.”

By January 2019, Benson, who has been at Liberty Hospital for 24 years, was sitting in a meeting, chatting with Amy Mathis, manager of Diagnostic Imaging and mentioned the “cyst.”

“Amy said I should talk to Dr. (Amy) Patel and get a second opinion,” Benson said. “Within a week, I was meeting with Dr. Patel. There was another mammogram and biopsy. Then I was told it was cancer.”

During March, Benson went through genetic screening and that test came back negative.

“My daughter graduated in May so I waited to start chemo at the end of the month,” she said. “I did four rounds of chemo three weeks apart and 24 rounds of radiation.”

Her final radiation appointment came the day after her 49th birthday. She said the relief was palpable.

Not long after that treatment completion, Patel and Benson got to be part of the Royals Breast Cancer Awareness Day at Kauffman Stadium, where the Kansas City Royals play ball. Patel, breast radiologist and medical director of the Women’s Imaging Center at Liberty Hospital, threw out the first pitch and Benson served as catcher.

Benson is still diligent about getting her breast screenings. She calls her chance to continue her peace of mind.

“When I was first diagnosed, my girls were a sophomore and senior in high school,” Benson said. “They had questions about what came next. I told them I had Stage 1. No lymph nodes were compromised. I wanted to maintain as normal a life as possible. I know my support system at home and at the hospital helped.”

Benson said she offers a cautionary tale to others who may wait and trust the word of one medical provider.

“First, I have learned to trust myself,” she said. “I was so lucky. I truly believe there was some divine intervention that day I sat next to Amy Mathis.”

While Benson has joined the ranks of breast cancer survivor, she speaks of the lingering presence of the disease.

“It’s always in the back of your mind, but you can’t always live in fear,” she said. “I worked the whole time I was going through treatments. I wanted to be that example for my daughters, too. I know I was fortunate and I believe in early detection. Now I believe in asking for a second or third opinion as well. You have to advocate for yourself.”

Southeast Editor Kellie Houx can be reached at kellie.houx@mycouriertribune.com or 389-6630.

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