If there’s one thing Sandy P. knows how to do well, its rise to a challenge.
In 1987, at a time when very few women were choosing careers in STEM, she earned a natural science degree from the University of South Florida. Years later, she took on the role of Mine Permitting Specialist at Mosaic, responsible for modifying and closing out past permits and making sure that everything the company committed to do and is required to do actually gets done. Then, in 2013, she was diagnosed with Stage 2B breast cancer.
Despite knowing since her early thirties that certain risk factors in her background might make her more susceptible to the disease, Sandy said, it didn’t make hearing the news any easier.
“It was tough,” she said. “I’d been vigilant for 15 years about getting my ultrasounds and mammograms. In fact, I had just come off two six-month follow ups and was cleared to go back on an annual instead of bi-annual basis.”
As it turned out, Sandy did have a lump, but it had been masked by dense breast tissue. According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly half of American women over age 40 who get screened for breast cancer have the condition. This can make interpreting screening results harder because dense tissue often appears as a white spot on the mammogram – just like a breast tumor.
Sandy readily admits that she wasn’t ready for her diagnosis. While still in recovery from a previous surgery, she received word that her brother-in-law also had been diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer, which he eventually succumbed to. The last thing she was prepared to hear was more cancer news.
With her husband’s urging, Sandy went in for the biopsy. A few weeks later, it was confirmed: she had breast cancer; making her the latest member of a group she never intended to be in.
“The unexpected thing you don’t think about is how cold it is when you don’t have any hair,’ she recalled after chemotherapy treatments caused her hair to fall out. “I have to say Mosaic was wonderful in support of me and what I had to do. They supported the time off I needed and my colleagues helped me work through it.”
Today, Sandy is cancer free and a vocal advocate for breast cancer screenings for both women and men. “I consider myself very fortunate,” she said. “If sharing my story helps at least one person get the screening or treatment they need, then it was well worth opening up.”