RALPHO TOWNSHIP, NORTHUMBERLAND COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Mammograms are low-dose x-rays to help detect breast cancer in its earliest stages. Women who get mammograms have a 33 percent lower risk of dying from breast cancer compared to those who don’t.

48-year-old Michele Britton is used to being the one asking and answering patient questions at the front desk of her job at Geisinger, but last year, she became one of those patients.

“This really floored me… for sure,” said Michele Britton, a Breast Cancer Survivor from Ralpho Township

The Ralpho Township woman came to Geisinger’s Woodbine Clinic in March 2021 for something she had been putting off.

“I wasn’t on time for my mammogram but I wasn’t, maybe two years late,” Britton explained.

But unlike her previous mammograms, a technician detected something.

“She was very, um, careful of how she said ‘Hey, you know. There’s a, you know, an odd spot I want to just have someone look at’ and I’m looking up at the screen and I’m seeing it,” Britton continued.

That spot in her left breast was a tumor. Three days later, Britton received the biopsy results.

“I’ll never forget the phone call. She was so, you know, calm and explained what my diagnosis was and I hung up and fell to the floor and just sobbed,” Britton said.

For someone who never had a serious illness, her breast cancer diagnosis was difficult to accept.

“I had two weeks of such a severe depression. Um, crying uncontrollably,” Britton stated.

One in eight women over the course of their lifetime will get breast cancer.

Britton says she never thought she’d be one of them, but this self-described woman of faith came to accept it.

“After that, everything just shifted. And literally, God got me through this. I can’t say that enough.”

“Michele is very fortunate,” said Gina Markle, Radiology Team Leader for Geisinger.

Britton learned that her breast cancer had not spread to her lymph nodes.

She needed a lumpectomy and radiation, but no full mastectomy and no chemotherapy, a pathway back to the life she loves.

“It is a very treatable, curable condition if it’s caught early and that’s the purpose of screening is to catch disease when it is less aggressive and less expensive to treat,” Markle explained.

As if Britton needed even more motivation to recover from breast cancer, she found it in the eyes of her young granddaughter. Lhyla is just two-years-old.

“She is just the center of my life. You know, I thank God for her every day,” Britton noted.

She plans to be there for Lhyla and watch her grow up with a newfound appreciation for life, and greater compassion for patients this Geisinger employee encounters.

“I’ve always had, you know, that sympathetic ear, definitely, but I think this definitely changed, changed me for the good,” said Britton.

She’s using her example of what that mammogram found that she had been putting off.

“If there’s anything in your life that means anything don’t put yourself last and it’s okay to be that person to take care of everybody but you have to take care of yourself,” Britton explained.

The CDC recommends women 40 to 44-years-old with average risk for breast cancer have the option to get an annual mammogram.

Those 45 to 54 should get one every year and those 55 and older should get one at least every other year.

This story is part of a joint reporting project with the Times Leader Media Group.

Pick up Wednesday’s edition for another breast cancer survivor story, or read online at timesleader.com.