Full Circle Moment and a Time for Giving Thanks

MMC radiologist connects with her former teacher at Oak Ridge Breast Center

With 44 years of experi­ence teaching mathematics, Benita Albert, 78, has be­come something of an opti­mist, thanks to her students at Oak Ridge High School.

“In the classroom, I saw the future every day,” says Albert, “and honestly, it looked bright.”

In recent years, the re­tired educator has moved her focus from mathematics to writing, sharing stories in the local newspaper. But when she recently wrote about Methodist Medical Center radiologist Lindsay Luttrell, MD, it wasn’t in a newspaper column. It was in a thank-you note.

A Cause for Concern

After her mother was di­agnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastec­tomy, Albert and her sisters became especially proactive in their approach to preven­tion. Earlier this year, a regular screening mammo­gram at Oak Ridge Breast Center revealed something suspicious.

She was called back for an ultrasound. When the results were in, she was told she needed a core biopsy, a procedure that removes cells to detect cancer.

The radiologist who had started Albert’s case wasn’t available to perform the bi­opsy, so another radiologist needed to step in. The nurse asked if Albert knew of Dr. Lindsay Luttrell.

“I thought when she said it, ‘That name is so familiar, how do I know that name?’” Albert says, “and then it clicked, and I said to her, ‘Lindsay George Luttrell?’ because Lindsay George was my student at Oak Ridge High School!”

Albert says her immedi­ate reaction was, “You can’t be serious! Of course, I want Lindsay! Of course!”

In Good Hands

“I had not seen her in sev­eral years,” Albert says, “and when she came in, that per­sonal connection was almost overwhelming at the time.”

As a breast cancer sur­vivor, Dr. Luttrell has a special understanding of the range of emotions tied into the core biopsy pro­cess. Albert, who had read about Dr. Luttrell’s cancer, knew the radiologist would be compassionate and well-qualified to provide excel­lent care.

“She’s a brilliant, brilliant woman,” Albert says.

Dr. Luttrell calls it a full-circle moment, and praises Albert for being proactive about getting annual mam­mograms.

“Early detection is key!” Dr. Luttrell says. “Every woman should have a yearly screening mammogram be­ginning at age 40.”

As Albert was positioned for the core biopsy, Dr. Lu­ttrell was behind her and ultrasound technologist Tashia Brookshire was at Albert’s side.

“Tashia was amazing, absolutely amazing,” Al­bert says. “It’s small acts of kindness that you never for­get, and I remember during the procedure…and just the uncertainty of everything… that Tashia gently patted my arm. It just filled me with a profound sense of security.”

Giving Thanks

Two days later, Albert re­ceived the call she had been waiting for. Dr. Luttrell de­livered the good news that the tumor was benign.

“Just the expression in her voice told me immediately ‘It’s OK,’” Albert says.

Albert felt so strongly about the experience that she decided to send hand­written, personal notes of gratitude. In each note, Albert expressed that she felt like she had angels all around her, and that Dr. Lut­trell and sonographer Tashia were two of those angels.

“You have a special gift for what you do, Lindsay…God blessed me with your skilled hands, with your most capable nurse assistant Tashia, and with a confidence that I was receiv­ing the best of care.” – Benita Albert to her former Oak Ridge High School student, Dr. Lind­say Luttrell.

As a dedicated radiolo­gist who sees many patients through similar situations, Dr. Luttrell welcomes the opportunity to raise breast cancer awareness and help women increase their odds of fighting it.

“Mammography has helped reduce breast can­cer mortality in the U.S. by nearly 40 percent since 1990,” Luttrell says. “One study shows mammogra­phy screening cuts the risk of dying from breast cancer nearly in half.”

But Dr. Luttrell also em­phasizes that breast cancer is becoming more common in younger women, too. Three out of four women diagnosed with breast can­cer have no family history of the disease and are not considered high risk.

It’s more important than ever to be proactive in find­ing breast cancer early to have the very best chance for successful treatment. To learn more or to sched­ule a mammogram at Oak Ridge Breast Center, call 865-835-3760 today or click here to self-schedule online.

 Retired teacher Benita Albert (pictured here with her husband, Mark) says annual screening mammograms are “exceedingly important” and advises other women to pay attention to warning signs.

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