"It feels like a huge relief"

October 28, 2016
Breast Cancer

It’s been just over a year since 46-year-old Spring Halper had a mammogram that would change her life. But her anxieties about breast cancer go back much further. Her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 27, and the disease took her life. “I want to be around for my daughter, to see her walk down the aisle,” Spring says of her daughter, Ashton. Early detection and a successful surgery have given her that chance.

Spring had regular yearly mammograms since she was 27, the same age her mom was when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she was 45, Spring’s radiologist at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, Alicia Vanhooser, MD, discovered an abnormality on her mammogram. The next step to was to get a biopsy, which Spring had done before. Past testing had revealed no cancer, but this time was different.

Spring recalls vividly what she was doing the day she got her biopsy results. Her daughter was scheduled to play a collegiate volleyball game in Oklahoma City, and she and her husband, Dieter, were getting ready to go. “It kind of changed the whole day,” Spring says.

She says Dr. Vanhooser first asked her how she felt, and what she wanted to do. “She let me make the decision,” Spring says. “When I told her I wanted a bilateral mastectomy (which is the removal of both breasts), she said she thought it was a good idea. I just wanted have the surgery and put this behind me. She was very supportive.”

Spring says Dr. Vanhooser gave her a list of surgeons. “She wants you to feel comfortable and send you to the best people,” Spring says.

Two days before Thanksgiving 2015, Spring had a bilateral mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Her stepmother and sister, who is a nurse, stayed with her during her recovery. Spring recalls that her family put on a fabulous Thanksgiving dinner. “They knocked it out of the park.”

Today, Spring is back to work at St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center, where she is a nurse in the ICU. She takes a daily medication prescribed by her doctor to help her stay healthy, and she says she is feeling “really good.”

Spring says that, as a nurse at St. Mary’s, she has gotten to know many people who are familiar with Dr. Vanhooser’s work. “She’s very professional, she knows her job,” Spring says. “At the same time, she’s very caring and empathetic.”

Today, with her treatment well behind her, Spring is a vocal advocate for screening mammograms and for Dr. Vanhooser. “She and her staff are a great asset to northwest Oklahoma,” she says.

Watch a video of Spring Halper describe her experience at the St. Mary's Regional Women's Imaging Center >

Are You Up to Date With Your Mammogram?

Mammograms are the best way to detect breast cancer early, when it is more treatable.

The American Cancer Society’s recommendations for breast cancer screening vary based on a woman’s age and risk factors. Women who are at higher than average risk include women with a personal history of breast cancer, a family history of breast cancer, a genetic mutation known to increase risk of breast cancer (such as BRCA), and women who had radiation therapy to the chest before the age of 30.

Tell your doctor if you have any of these risk factors when you schedule your next mammogram.