Breast Cancer Survivor Diagnosed with COVID Days Before Scheduled Surgery

Oct 07, 2021 at 12:00 pm by WGNS

Photo: Beki Baker and her family

Beki Baker, a wife and a mother of 3, never thought she would hear the words “you have cancer.” Beki has lived in Middle Tennessee for more than 11 years and is the Theater Chair at Lipscomb University.

In September 2020, Beki found an unusual lump in her breast. It was 8 months into the COVID pandemic and Beki wanted to brush off her discovery. She wanted to wait until things slowed down, but she had this inclination that something wasn’t right. “I was 38 so at the time, I hadn’t even had my first mammogram,” Beki said. “I have no family history of breast cancer, so I really didn’t think it was anything to worry about. I wasn’t feeling sick. I had absolutely no symptoms besides the fact that I had this lump in my breast.” 

Beki decided to schedule an appointment at Ascension Saint Thomas Hospital West and was referred to get a mammogram. After her mammogram, she saw Dr. Lisa Bellin, Breast Surgeon at Ascension Saint Thomas, and received a biopsy and an ultrasound to re-check some things. When they met to discuss the results of her scans, Dr. Bellin informed Beki that she had stage 2 breast cancer “It was very intimidating getting this diagnosis,” Beki said. “It’s like learning a new language. There are so many terms and it's so scary, but the staff just made me feel at peace. They were so knowledgeable, answered any questions I had, and provided me with outside resources.” 

Beki was scheduled to have her surgery in October 2020. During that time, the surgery center required a COVID test at least 72 hours in advance to make sure she was negative. Unfortunately, Beki got the call that she was, in fact, COVID positive despite being asymptomatic. “Dr. Bellin called and made me feel so much better about the situation,” Beki said. “She could feel that I was scared and frustrated. When you find out you have cancer, you just want it out of your body.” 

Dr. Bellin worked with the schedulers and the plastic surgeon to get Beki on the schedule after 10 days of quarantine. “Going to the hospital to have this surgery was very overwhelming,” said Beki. “I was alone through this process due to COVID restrictions. I was not allowed to have anyone come back with me through my preparation or recovery. I’ve never had a major surgery like this before so I felt isolated, but I had a great team of doctors helping me every step of the way.” 

Beki is now almost 1 year in recovery. “I have really felt the interwoven nature of grief and gratitude through this process,” said Beki. “Grieving because I am changed by cancer, treatment, and remembering my life before this diagnosis. Gratitude because I am so grateful for the researchers and patients who have come before me. There was a vast feeling of being connected to everyone who has come before and everyone who will come after me. I am so thankful for those who have dedicated their lives to save women like me.” 

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