Breast cancer ‘a hitch in the road,’ says Craig survivor Lois Stoffle
CRAIG — She was in the shower, one arm over her head, fingers moving in concentric circles during a routine breast self-exam when she felt it — a lump.
“It just felt strange. It would move, but it was definitely a lump — about a thumbnail-sized lump,” recounted breast cancer survivor Lois Stoffle. “It wasn’t there before, and it shouldn’t have been there. I checked the other. It didn’t have a lump. It really rattled me.”
Self-exams save lives
There was no family history of cancer.
“I had had a mammogram not even two months before, and there was nothing,” Stoffle said.
Between mammograms, she performs regular breast self-exams as part of her shower routine, a habit she adopted after a presentation by nurse Donna Reishus at the ladies alter and rosary society meeting at St. Michael’s church.
“She made it sound so important, a great life-saving technique. She was the catalyst,” Stoffle said.
As it turned out, this “catalyst” was important and may have saved Stoffle’s life.
During a self-exam in April 2017, she found the lump on her left breast.
Because she’d so recently passed her mammogram, Stoffle initially didn’t want to believe the lump might be cancer, but she called her doctor anyway.
“Physician Assistant Carol Bolt examined me, and she said, ‘You need a mammogram right away,’” Stoffle recalled. “Carol Bolt was right on it.”
An ultrasound and biopsy soon followed.
“It was confirmed as cancer and fast-growing,” Stoffle said. “I think it is super important to do the self-checks.”
Cancer doesn’t change you
In May 2017, Stoffle had a lumpectomy to remove the cancer, the same month she was also supposed to travel to Ireland as part of a Colorado Northwestern Community College trip abroad program.
“Dr. (Alexis) Driggs said, ‘You go. You can change a dressing in a hotel as well as you can at home,’” Stoffle said.
Encouraged by her doctor, she went.
“No one knew, except my roommate. It doesn’t change who you are. Depending on how drastic a surgery, it may alter your body, but you are still the same person you were. You still love people; you still enjoy things,” Stoffle said.
When she returned to Craig, she began a course of chemotherapy at the Memorial Regional Health infusion clinic, managed by Registered Nurse Marie Kettle.
“She was absolutely wonderful,” Stoffle said.
The treatment may have contributed to later medical complications. Blood clots were discovered in Stoffle’s lungs after she returned from a trip to Hawaii, and damage to the tendons in her hip required a surgery from which she is still rehabilitating with physical therapy.
A hitch in the road
Cancer isn’t the first adversity Stoffle has had to overcome.
She lived in Maybell for more than 30 years with her husband, Ron Stoffle, until the couple sold their place after Ron was admitted to a nursing home in Craig to receive care for Alzheimer’s disease.
The move allowed Stoffle to be closer to her husband during the final stages of the disease that claimed his life a couple of years ago.
Positive thoughts and positive actions, coupled with the support of family, saw her through that difficult time. She said family, friends, an “amazing” team of local doctors, and prayer were there for her again when cancer came calling.
“At first, you think this is a death sentence,” Stoffle said. “I’m going to die, and I have to get everything in order. Then, you have doctors who are positive, telling you that you have a long life ahead of you and to keep going, and with a lot of prayers, you keep going.”
Life after cancer
It’s been a year since Stoffle completed her chemotherapy.
“I just had a mammogram two weeks ago and an ultrasound, and they didn’t see anything suspicious,” she said. “Hopefully, everything is fine, and I pray.”
She’s also telling her story to remind others to “get your mammograms. Do those self-checks. Nobody knows your body as well as you do, and listen to your doctor.”
With a twinkle in her eye, Lois Stoffle will also share she has a new “man” in her life — a small dog, named Taffy she recently rescued.
For others confronting a cancer diagnosis, Stoffle said: “It’s just another hitch in the road. You get over it, and you keep going. Otherwise, what would you do, give up? I’ve got too much to live for. I’m not done traveling yet. I have a passport and will travel.”
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.