My name is Ardyth Carpenter, and in 1982, I went to Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN, after experiencing a TIA. While there, Mayo’s work up discovered a malignancy in my right breast. I had no ill effects from the “mini-stroke” and the clinic was just a 75 mile drive from my home in Mankato but this began a 30 year journey many times through snow and icy roads. I was just 62 years old and still working at an insurance company I loved and had no plans to retire.
My daughters wanted me to be treated at Mayo and knew I would receive the best care and state of the art treatment there. After my mastectomy, I tried to sleep but my roommate in the next bed cried throughout the night. By morning, the kindest nurses got me up and walked me down the hall to other patients who had mastectomies and we visited and comforted one another. This experience gave me the confidence I would need in the long battle with cancer and paved the way to walk on a path that would be one without worry and anxiety backed by the Mayo knowledge and expertise I could always count on.
After the scars healed, Tamoxifen would be my drug of choice but over the years I would undergo 17 more malignant recurrences on the same side. Regular rechecks back to Mayo would tell the treatment story when newer drugs were prescribed and by 2000, cancer free, I celebrated my 80th birthday with a big party of friends and family and took my daughters to Europe. I was strong and felt very blessed. Over the years they have told my story often to give courage and hope to their friends who would be diagnosed with breast cancer. My four daughters recommended Mayo believing as I did, that Mayo offered the best hope for a cure and we came to view breast cancer as very treatable and curable. They even came to know my wonderful oncologists and new doctors who carried my 10 inch thick chart. One of my favorites was the doctor who treated me for years and on one visit tugged my very gray hair and exclaimed, “Oh, its real —not a wig!” — thinking that I had lost my hair to chemo. We both laughed and this distinguished doctor never failed in his personal and genuine manner toward me with my long history at Mayo Clinic.
By 2004 my doctor discovered thyroid cancer and it was treated successfully without surgery, but the breast cancer had returned and the chemotherapies were exhausted so it was decided radiation therapy would be in order. At age 84 I underwent the radiation which resulted with some lymphedema in my arm which was partially relieved by a pump. I was able to do the gardening that I loved and some travel without any recurrence of the breast cancer, but in 2007 a suspicious lesion on my face proved to be melanoma.
I returned to Mayo where incredible surgeons in dermatology removed two large melanomas with hundreds of the finest stitches. They were painful but also invisible — as though I had a lovely facelift! When I returned for the melanoma follow up the doctors and nursed greeted me so enthusiastically and celebrated the tremendous success of my surgery. Today, I have the expertise of Mayo Clinic right here in Mankato where they care for my medical needs with the thorough knowledge that is Mayo. My relationship with Mayo has been a long and dedicated journey to recovery. Over 30 years I never worried about the outcome and I enjoy life at age 92. With faith and gratitude I gladly share my story with anyone who suffers from cancer—Mayo is there for us.