Irene Sullivan, Survivor Spotlight: Breast Cancer Awareness

As a young woman, Irene Sullivan found non-cancerous lumps in both breasts – which started annual mammogram appointments beginning at age 25. She raves about the vast improvements in mammography technology over the past four decades.

“The process has improved tremendously,” the 73-year-old Memorial Medical Center employee said of the imaging. “People are so afraid, but it takes two seconds now. Why would you not want to find out? You hold your breath, and the quick release is so much better than it used to be.”

In 2018, Irene was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a partial double mastectomy three days after her 73rd birthday and began treatment after that. She was determined to control cancer and not let cancer control her. She was also adamant about speaking up about the various treatment options and the acceptability of their side effects.

The radiation team quickly became one of her biggest support teams.

“Memorial was fantastic, and I don’t say that because I’ve worked here for 20 years,” she said with a chuckle. “I cannot say enough about our radiation department. At check-in, they make you feel like this isn’t going to be as scary as you think it’s going to be. They keep you informed of each step so that it’s not as scary. They hold you, pick you up and help you afterwards.”

Today, Irene is back at work in health information management where she keeps tabs on her co-workers, who she views as family. She enjoys each day with her husband, Patrick, their three rescue dogs and one rescue cat. She loves to read and shop.

She knows there are others who are fighting the same battle, and she offers this advice.

“I believe that a positive attitude is the best pill you can take,” she said. “If I can help just one person not to be afraid to do this, I’m going to do it. You can’t just give up because you have cancer. Treatment won’t help if you don’t have a good attitude.”

For more information on mammography.

3D Mammography at Abraham Lincoln Memorial Hospital
3D Mammography at Memorial Medical Center
3D Mammography at Passavant Area Hospital
3D Mammography at Taylorville Memorial Hospital