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Miracle machine

Leslie Wallace’s wall is adorned with crosses, and she listens to Christian rock on her stereo.

Her faith carried her through bouts with breast and uterine cancer that will make the recent diagnosis of a third cancer easier to handle, she said.

In addition to her faith, Wallace, 58, is grateful for the MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, machine at Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital that detected her breast cancer – and, perhaps, saved her life.



“If it hadn’t been for the MRI machine, I’d still be walking around not knowing it,” Wallace said. “They said it probably wouldn’t have shown up for a long time on a mammography,” maybe up to four years.

As a person with a long family history of cancer, Wallace was a prime candidate for the MRI when the appointment for her yearly mammogram came up recently.




Her friend, hospital imaging technician Jeanne Dunning, signed her up because of the family history. Her hospital needed cases to try the new machine out and train technicians.

While Wallace’s mammography showed no problems, the breast MRI pointed to something suspicious. A subsequent needle biopsy showed positive for breast cancer.

“Bingo, the machine worked,” Wallace said. “I’ll have to have a masectomy, but I get a new (implanted breast) right away. We’ve got great diagnostic capabilities here with this machine.”

She also admits that the $5,000 cost of the MRI procedure might be difficult to afford for patients not in a trial or without good insurance.

Despite her third bout with cancer, Wallace is upbeat.

“For me, it’s common,” she said. “I’ve been around cancer since I was seven years old when my aunt had it. Between my mom and I, we’ve had it five times.”

Early detection key

To battle breast cancer, women need to know about their breasts, Wallace said.

“Every girl who gets a bra should get Dr. Susan Love’s Breast Book,” she said. “You need to know about your body.”

Once people know about their bodies and family medical history, yearly mammograms and checkups are a must, Wallace said.

“Early detection saves lives,” Wallace said. “On all three occasions, mine has been caught early.”

Remaining positive also is important, she said.

“When people hear cancer, they freak, but it’s not a death sentence,” Wallace said. “You can live a normal life, because it’s very treatable.”

The hospital’s Cancer Center staff also has been a major reason why Wallace’s cancer battles have been less stressful.

“Just the convenience of not having to deal with the traffic” in Sacramento or the Bay Area for treatments has made the center worth it, Wallace said. “There’s so much love and compassion there.”

Wallace has been able to maintain her teaching jobs through her battles with cancer and said it has brought perspective to her life.

“It sure puts whining in its place,” she said.

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To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail davem@the union.com or call 477-4237.


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