OKLAHOMA CITY – One in seven women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime.
The most common, most survivable kind of breast cancer is most often diagnosed in women in their sixties.
Last November, Billie Minney went in for her yearly screening mammogram.
Doctors picked up on a small cluster of suspicious cells.
Minney was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer.
She was shocked and scared. Minney found comfort in family and friends.
“It’s just that deep, abiding friendship that you know if I need something Billie’s there,” said Minney’s best friend, Betty Lowe. “She knows she can count on me too.”
Billie and Betty met forty years ago.
In 1978, Lowe moved into the neighborhood, right next door.
The two women raised their kids together.
They went to church together.
They took out of town trips together.
Minney and Lowe have laughed and loved each other through countless seasons of change.
Their lives have been spread richly over four decades and a few acres of woody side-yard just outside of McLoud city limits.
Billie helped Betty bury her husband John last year.
The Lowes had been married 52 years.
When Billie was diagnosed with breast cancer a few months later, it was no surprise Betty offered to help carry the load.
The surprise came when Betty discovered she too had a concerning spot on her mammogram.
The two friends discovered their two cases of cancer just two weeks apart.
“The day that they came in my nurse came back and said, ‘I kind of have a unique situation. There’s two ladies at the front saying they want to be seen together.'” said Stephenson Cancer Center radiology oncologist Dr. Christina Henson.
Dr. Henson said their cancers are almost identical.
Both women have the same type of breast cancer with a slightly different hormonal marker.
Because both women had early-stage breast cancer both were candidates for a new kind of radiation therapy.
Partial breast radiation is high-dose, targeted radiation with fewer side effects and faster results.
“That’s the direction the field is moving in for early-stage breast cancer,” Dr. Henson said.
Because their treatment and medications were the same, Betty and Billie did their radiation treatments together.
“It was just such a coincidence that we would be neighbors for 40 years and then within the span of two weeks we’d both be diagnosed with breast cancer,” Betty said. “And as it turns out the same type of breast cancer and do the same surgery and take the same medication. I mean what are the chances of that?”
The cancer doctors at Stephenson have never seen two cases quite like theirs.
Betty and Billie have been cancer-free for a few months now.
Their recent mammograms detect no abnormalities.
Since they fared so well as a tag-team fighting cancer together they plan to schedule their annual mammogram appointments together from now on too.