Komen St. Louis’ 2014 Health Professional of the Year: Theresa Taylor

Komen St. Louis is fortunate to work with so many dedicated health care professionals who deliver quality breast health and breast cancer services to individuals in our community.

Theresa Taylor (center) with Komen St. Louis Board Member Lillie Thomas and Executive Director Helen Chesnut

Theresa Taylor (center) with Komen St. Louis Board Member Lillie Thomas and Executive Director Helen Chesnut

At our Power of a Promise luncheon, we presented our 2014 Health Professional of the Year Award to one such dedicated person, Theresa Taylor.

Theresa is Outreach Coordinator at the Breast HealthCare Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center.

Theresa goes the extra mile to help as many women as she can make the connection to lifesaving breast health and breast cancer services. She does this figuratively and literally – driving many miles to make sure women in rural areas get the mammograms they need.

Theresa is a gentle voice of authority when speaking with a woman who is worried about “the lump” and has no insurance.

She is a two-time breast cancer survivor herself, the mother of two sons, and is training for her 4th Komen 3-Day walk event. Clearly, she has a personal commitment to the cause.

Congratulations and thank you, Theresa!

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What Komen St. Louis Funding Can Do: Shereece’s Story

Late last year, when 52-year-old Shereece Gardner discovered a lump in her breast during a self- exam, she immediately contacted Susan G. Komen® St. Louis.

Shereece Gardner (photo by Elizabeth White)

Shereece Gardner (photo by Elizabeth White)

“I’ve participated in the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure for the past 11 years,” recalls Shereece. “At that point, everything I knew about breast cancer, I knew because of Susan G. Komen. So, I assumed they had the resources to point me in the right direction.”

After hearing about Shereece’s situation, a Komen St. Louis staff member referred her to the Breast HealthCare Center (BHCC) at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. With Komen St. Louis funding, the BHCC provides increased access to breast screening services, as well as education, prevention and early detection of breast cancer by providing screening and diagnostic mammograms.

During her first appointment, Shereece met with Theresa Taylor, an outreach coordinator at the BHCC. “I informed Shereece about our grant program, ‘Reaching the Underserved,’ which I knew could really help her out financially,” says Theresa.

Funded by a Komen St. Louis grant for more than 12 years, the BHCC Reaching the Underserved program provides MBMC with the resources to support uninsured and underinsured women throughout the region. The program’s services are provided for at-risk women ages 40-64 at the BHCC and on its digital mobile mammography van. Follow-up services are provided at the BHCC for women with mammography abnormalities.

After meeting with Theresa, Shereece underwent a 3D mammogram (digital breast tomosynthesis), which provides more detailed, higher resolution images of the breasts, making it easier to detect smaller cancers. Unfortunately, the 3D mammogram revealed a suspicious tumor, and a subsequent biopsy confirmed Gardner’s suspicion: she had stage two breast cancer. Shereece then met with Paul Yazdi, MD, to discuss her diagnosis, treatment options and prognosis. He explained everything thoroughly and sympathetically, reassuring her that she was in good hands.

Shereece with Dr. Paul Yazi (photo by Elizabeth White)

Shereece with Dr. Paul Yazi (photo by Elizabeth White)

“I absolutely adore Dr. Yazdi,” says Shereece. “He makes me feel like I’m his only patient, and he is always incredibly generous with his time. That means so much when you’re battling cancer.”

In January 2014, Shereece underwent a lumpectomy and a sentinel node biopsy, which showed no signs of cancer in her lymph nodes. However, just to be safe, the medical team at the BHCC prescribed chemotherapy. Since February, Shereece has been coming to the hospital every three weeks to receive her chemo treatments during four-hour appointments.

“With breast cancer and chemo, there are good days and bad days, but I’m really thankful for the support of the medical team at MoBap’s Breast HealthCare Center,” says Shereece. “They have all been so wonderful and considerate. In fact, I get a call from someone on the team at least once or twice a month to check on me.”

Fortunately, all of Shereece’s breast cancer services — including the 3D mammogram, biopsies, lumpectomy and chemotherapy — are covered by the grant program. Without the support of the program, she wouldn’t be able to afford the cancer care she so desperately needs.

“I was honored to be part of the team that took care of Shereece. Being able to witness her courage and dignity in her fight against cancer is one of the most rewarding parts of my job,” says Dr. Yazdi. “I’m also happy to know that she was helped by the Komen grant program, which brings cancer care to many underserved women throughout the St. Louis community.”

Shereece’s last treatment is scheduled for June 18, four days after the Komen St. Louis Race for the Cure. She is planning to participate in this year’s Race — as one of the survivors.

“This year, the Race has taken on a whole new meaning,” says Shereece. “Thanks to Susan G. Komen and MoBap, I’m getting the help I need to win my battle with breast cancer.”

Komen St. Louis Community Partner: Missouri Baptist Breast HealthCare Center’s Reaching the Underserved Program

Community Partner

The Breast HealthCare Center at Missouri Baptist Medical Center continues to be a strong leader in its commitment to reach out to women in need.

“We are very fortunate to be able to assist women who have no insurance or those who are underinsured in St. Louis and surrounding communities,” says Theresa Taylor, Outreach Coordinator.

With Komen St. Louis funding, the Center provides increased access to breast screening services, as well as education, prevention and early detection of breast cancer by providing screening and diagnostic mammograms and ultrasounds to women ages 40-64.

Through the MBMC Breast HealthCare Center’s Reaching the Underserved program – which has been supported by a Komen St. Louis grant for 12 years – Missouri Baptist reaches out to many rural communities where women may not otherwise have access to a mammogram.

The program partners with local clinics and health departments, putting together educational events to bring in women and create a relaxed, fun day and comfortable atmosphere.

“Thanks to the Komen St. Louis grant, our digital mobile mammography van is able to travel into neighborhoods in many of the rural communities, reaching those in need,” says Theresa.

For those women whose mammograms show abnormalities, follow-up services are provided at the Breast HealthCare Center.

“What we often see is that when it comes to caring for their own health by having a mammogram, it’s typically the first thing many women do without,” says Theresa. “We are very fortunate to be able to provide this to them.”

The educational component is equally important, and the program works to share knowledge about the importance of early detection of breast cancer through screening. The program’s educational events are held in St. Louis City and St. Louis County along with 11 rural communities in the following Missouri counties: Jefferson, St. Francois, Warren, Ste. Genevieve, Perry, Lincoln, Madison, Washington, Franklin, St. Charles and Montgomery.

As a two-time breast cancer survivor with no family history of the disease, Theresa understands the importance of providing these services.

“I never imagined this would be something that would have impacted my life as it has,” she says. “I know first-hand how devastating this disease can be. In my role as the Outreach Coordinator, I find it very gratifying to be able to reach out and share my story in hopes it will convince as many women as possible to get screened or to get the help they need.”

The outreach efforts have particularly grown in the past two years. “Last year we provided over 800 women with services and we anticipate the same for this year,” Theresa says.

“I have first-hand knowledge of what our ladies are feeling when they are presented with a problem,” says Theresa. “I feel blessed and fortunate, with the help of our generous grant from Komen St. Louis, to help as many women as we can every year.”

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including Missouri Baptist Breast HealthCare Center’s Reaching the Underserved program. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

Komen St. Louis Community Partner: East Missouri Action Agency’s Rural Missouri Outreach Program

Community Partner

The East Missouri Action Agency has offered the Rural Missouri Outreach Program through funding from Komen St. Louis for four years. The program serves women in Jefferson, Madison, Perry, St. Francois, Ste. Genevieve and Washington counties in Missouri.

Last year, the funding helped to provide nearly 300 mammograms to women who are uninsured or underinsured. Without this program, women in rural Missouri may not have access to the care that is vital for the early detection of breast cancer – care that can ultimately save lives.

Komen St. Louis funding is essential in making sure these women get the care they need and deserve. “We would never have been able to provide ultrasound and diagnostic services otherwise,” says Program Director Angel Prather. “This funding really helps out a lot.”

While the process of receiving a mammogram or other diagnostic services is not an altogether pleasant one, Angel and her team work to help women feel special in the midst of what can be an uncomfortable circumstance.

“When we give mammograms every month, we treat the patients like queens for the day,” Angel says. “We work with Missouri Baptist Medical Center to provide the mammograms through their mammogram van, and we give out door prizes and serve food and drinks to the women.”

Above all, Angel says that providing women with the care they need has always been the Rural Missouri Outreach Program’s main priority.

“I’ve been a director for about 25 years,” she says, “and helping women is just what we do.”

In 2013, Komen St. Louis granted $2.2 million to 13 local breast health programs in our 17-county Missouri/Illinois service area, including East Missouri Action Agency’s Rural Missouri Outreach Program. These grants help fund breast health and breast cancer screening, education and patient navigation services for those in our community who otherwise may not have access due to low income, lack of insurance or other barriers.

A Survivor’s Story: Sheila Leutzinger

In October 2011, while leaving her local Walmart in Festus, Mo., Sheila Leutzinger noticed the Missouri Baptist Medical Center mammography van in the parking lot. Theresa Taylor, an outreach coordinator for the hospital’s Breast HealthCare Center and a two-time breast cancer survivor, happened to catch Sheila’s attention and asked her if she needed a mammogram.

Thanks to a grant from Komen St. Louis, the hospital’s mammography van travels to neighborhoods across St. Louis and to towns in rural Missouri, helping women who have no insurance or high deductibles and are unable to afford a mammogram. If further care is needed, Theresa and her coworkers help these women navigate their care.

Sheila Leutzinger and Theresa Taylor

Sheila Leutzinger and Theresa Taylor

“We regularly take the van out and educate women on what is normal for them and their bodies,” says Theresa. “Our goal is to help women who have limited means. What we often see is that, when it comes to caring for their own health by having a mammogram, it’s typically the first thing women do without.” 

In Sheila’s case, it had been eight years since her last mammogram. Like a lot of uninsured women, it wasn’t a top priority. So when Theresa told Sheila about the free mammography, she figured she should take advantage of the service. At the time, however, Sheila was carrying groceries that needed to be refrigerated so she couldn’t wait for the screening. She decided to make an appointment instead.

A couple of weeks later, Sheila visited the mammography van for her mammogram, which revealed a suspicious mass in her right breast that required further testing. Theresa referred Sheila to Missouri Baptist Medical Center for a biopsy, which revealed she had breast cancer. Sheila then underwent an MRI and breast ultrasound, which identifed another mass in her left breast, requiring additional biopsies.

On Dec. 27, 2011, Sheila arrived at the hospital for her surgery, where doctors removed the mass in Sheila’s right breast and performed a more throrough biopsy on the left breast. This latest biopsy also tested positive for cancer, which required another surgery in January 2012 to remove lymph nodes on her left side.

Sheila is doing well today, and her prognosis is good. In fact, her oncologist has given her a 92 percent chance of making a full recovery. Sheila is on cancer medication for the next five years, and she finished 32 rounds of radiation this past summer.

“Like me, my closest friends neglected to get their regular mammograms,” says Sheila. “Because of my experience, two of them booked their mammograms the day after my surgery and promised to undergo regular mammograms from now on. That was the silver lining for me.”