MemorialCare Breast Center patient Heather Chu was on hand at the recent Women’s Health Pavilion groundbreaking event to share her cancer journey and support the value of having access to these types of women’s services all under one roof.
The new state-of-the-art three-story, 40,000-square-foot facility, scheduled to open in 2023 in Laguna Hills, aims to elevate the future of women's healthcare and focus on women's needs through all stages of their lives.
“In January 2021, I began my journey with MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center,” says Heather. “One morning, I woke up with blood in my sleeping bra, and while I assumed it was mastitis, my husband Dr. Terence Chu urged me to get it checked out. As women, we are told to look for lumps but not necessarily discharge.”
Heather was diagnosed with a high-grade DCIS Triple Positive breast cancer that encompassed the entire bottom portion of her breast and nipple. Within one month of seeing blood in her bra, she was in the operating room having a double mastectomy with an aesthetic flat closure.
While Heather was fortunate enough to have clean lymph nodes, she also had a half millimeter of a micro invasive cancer, so the team prescribed her Tamoxifen for the next five years. Five months later, she was back in the operating room having a hysterectomy, after a long history of uterine pain that was worsening with Tamoxifen.
“The stress women go through mentally from the moment they are diagnosed … it’s just a lot to take in,” explains Heather. “What to ask? Where to go? What’s next? MemorialCare was just that secure place that has helped me navigate this journey.”
Heather had a strong support system at home, as well as the staff at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center to help her along her journey. In fact, Heather specifically remembers a nurse who treated her like family and held her hand before her biopsy. Heather also valued her patient navigator who helped guide and comfort her through every step of her treatment – from appointment reminders to explaining procedures and insurance.
“Breast cancer and women’s health issues affect so many people — the women, but also their families,” says Heather. “There is a huge need in the community for the Women’s Health Pavilion. It's going to be great for women and their physical and mental health because education and access to services is so important.”