Together, our community cared for Jen MacLeod

Jen MacLeod teaches at Brisbane Public School and has lived in Rockwood for eleven years. She’s really active outdoors and loves to canoe and camp with her husband Daryl and two kids, Aven 15, and Remi, 11. 

When she turned 50 in 2019, Jen knew she was due for a mammogram but put it off until she had time during the winter school break. Just after the New Year, she finally went to GGH’s Diagnostic Imaging Department for her first scan. Driving home from the Hospital, Jen got a call asking her to come back. Three days later, after a second scan, she was having a biopsy on a suspicious spot. Jen clearly recalls her anxiety at the time, and her wish that she had booked the test earlier.

Before the end of the month, Jen was scheduled for a lumpectomy to address what turned out to be ductal carcinoma breast cancer. A second surgery followed in February to ensure the cancer had not spread to her lymph system.  

Jen underwent a 15-day radiation therapy regimen at Grand River Hospital that finished up in June of last year and is now taking medication to help prevent a recurrence. She says that she is finally feeling good and is happy to be back teaching.

Jen is a real cheerleader for the new mammography machine that arrived at GGH just before her first scan. She says, “There is so much new technology that can improve the patient experience, and this machine is a great example. Wait time is so hard to endure, and this machine helps shrink that wait time. The degree to which it has streamlined, simplified and expedited the process is quite impressive.” 

According to staff, the new machine has significant advantages over the one it replaced. In particular, it can create 3D images of the breast and any abnormality. With the increased ability to view smaller lumps or shadows, an earlier diagnosis is possible. It also reduces the number of false-positive results, which is a huge benefit to patients.

Should a biopsy be necessary, 3D imaging can help to ensure that the biopsy needle is inserted in the exact location and depth needed to get a proper sample. Additionally, the biopsy can be analyzed immediately to make sure the needle found its mark. If it missed because the patient moved, for example, another biopsy could be immediately taken.

The machine has some softer features designed to help patients feel less anxious. For example, its lighting can change colour depending on a patient’s preference. “Anything to help ease the patient’s tension is most welcome,” says Karen Landoni, GGH’s long-time Tech Lead in mammography. “Some of the most anxious people coming to the hospital are those coming for a breast scan,” she said. “The more they relax, the better image we can get, and the better their experience.”

Jen agrees, “You can’t put a price on the reduction of anxiety.”  She adds that when she returned to the General for a one-year follow-up mammogram, she was greeted by staffer Sarah in the unit, who remembered her.  “It was really nice to be remembered.”     

In recognition of Sarah’s kindness, Jen donated to Hospital, and she plans on becoming a monthly donor. She understands that every dollar spent on patient care equipment at GGH comes from community donations. She wants people to know how much that means to patients like her. The new mammography machine was fully funded by generous donors in the community. 

Jen says, “There’s nothing special about my story, but I am telling it to encourage people to get their mammograms when they should, not to wait or be afraid, and to let them know it’s a simple procedure that may be vitally important to their health.”   Thank you, Jen!