Cheryl’s angels

By The Pulse Oct 1, 2013

Cheryl Rintamaki's yearly mammogram didn't catch her cancer, but the information collected from 15 years of the screening helped doctors recognize the fast-growing mass for what it was.

Cheryl Rintamaki's yearly mammogram didn't catch her cancer, but the information collected from 15 years of the screening helped doctors recognize the fast-growing mass for what it was.

For 15 years, Cheryl Rintamaki of Casper never missed a mammogram. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 62 and Rintamaki is an adamant supporter of the screening.

In 2004, she noticed bruising around her breast. Her doctor told her bruising was not a sign of breast cancer, and nothing showed up on her mammogram.

But the bruising didn’t fade. The second time she went to the doctor, he sent her to a specialist. A more sensitive CT scan showed a fast growing mass. Rintamaki underwent a double mastectomy followed by radiation and chemotherapy.

During her mastectomy, a  volunteer from Wyoming Medical Center Foundation’s Angel Cancer Care came into Rintamaki’s room. She was also a cancer survivor, the Angel told her. She explained what Rintamaki could expect and about the support the Angels were prepared to give. It was exactly what Rintamaki needed to hear.

“I didn’t know what to expect before that. I thought I was going to die, and I was not ready to,” Rintamaki said.

The Angels hosted cosmetic workshops and provided wigs. They cooked food and brought her treats. At Christmas, when Rintamaki was too exhausted to bake, Angels brought huge trays of cookies.

Rintamaki finished her treatment in 2005. She figured it was her turn and joined the Angels. She has been volunteering ever since.

Even though Rintamaki’s mammogram didn’t catch her cancer, she knew her body well enough to know that something wasn’t right. “We might know something is wrong, but we think if we ignore it, it will go away. It doesn’t always go away,” she said.

Listen to your body, she says. Ask your doctor when something doesn’t feel right.

And, get a mammogram every year.

About the angels

The Wyoming Medical Center Foundation’s Angels Cancer Care program serves hundreds of cancer patients every year, offering emotional support, financial assistance and more. It also offers free mammograms to women who can’t afford them.
 
To learn more or to make a donation, call (307) 577-4355 or visit our website.

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