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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.”
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.
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.