Category Archives: Forsyth

‘Cancer sucks’

Her realization: Cancer is traumatic… and that’s OK

One morning in April 2014, Shenell Thompson woke up to a strange feeling in her breasts.

It was a fullness — a sensation she’d known well while breastfeeding but hadn’t felt in 14 years. Then, she checked her nipples, and fluid seeped out.

“That’s when I freaked out,” Thompson recalls. “I ran out of my room and told my husband and immediately made an appointment with my regular doctor.”

The day she went in for her visit, she couldn’t replicate the experience. Her doctor advised her to keep an eye on her breasts and come back if it happened again. It did, and that set off a series of tests to determine what was going on.

At first, doctors thought it was a papilloma, a benign nodule near her nipple. Then it appeared to be atypical ductal hypoplasia, a cluster of abnormal cells that could be pre-cancerous. But when her team at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center went in to remove the problematic tissue, they found something far more serious: stage 0 ductal carcinoma, a cancer confined to her milk ducts.

At the time, Thompson was 42 years old.

The road to recovery 

Thompson had a mammogram the previous December. She’d kept up with regular, at-home breast exams. She had lost two aunts to breast cancer. A mother of three, she knew she had to be proactive, so she was.

“I decided early on that I would always live in a way that would allow me to give my best self to my children. To honor that, mammograms were one of those things I wasn’t going to miss,” Thompson says.

But Thompson’s cancer didn’t present as a lump. She has highly dense breasts with lots of calcification. That shows up in a mammogram, but it’s typically benign. For years, she’d been told the calcification was there, but also that it was nothing to worry about.

Now, all that had changed.

Thompson met with the radiation oncologist and was given the option of doing a single mastectomy of the right breast or a double mastectomy with reconstruction. The second option was more intense, but it would allow her to avoid radiation and years of medication. That’s what she chose.

“Let me just remove these breasts and anything that’s going on with them because they’re just not acting right,” Thompson recalls. “The same cells were in both breasts, so my doctor said it felt like I really made the right decision.”

That doesn’t mean it came lightly.

“Making the choice to amputate my breasts was really emotional. I was really lamenting over what happens to your body and your personal image and sexuality and all the things that would be impacted by this decision,” she recalls. “I was also wrapping my mind around the fact that I am one of those people who was really proactive, and I still got cancer.”

Her recovery process was long and intense. She had a hysterectomy the following August, unrelated to her cancer, and was in and out of hospitals for a total of about 18 months.

“Then I stuck it on a shelf and didn’t deal with it for about three years,” she says. “I think I did a really good job of faking I was OK at first, and then I finally realized that was a really traumatic thing that I went through. I’ve been slowly processing it ever since.”

The challenges 

In the five years since her surgery, Thompson’s perspective on life has shifted significantly.

“When you go through something like that, I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but it really does take off the rose-colored lenses you walk through life with,” Thompson says. “I find myself interacting with fewer people. I don’t have the emotional energy to give to a lot of things anymore. The people who are closest to us may not have been the people who were strongest for us, and that changes how you value your relationships.”

Thompson has found new connections, though, in online support groups and other survivors, including an old friend she reconnected with shortly after her diagnosis.

“We had not talked to each other in 10 years, and we talked on the phone for two and a half hours one Saturday morning. We were both crying,” Thompson recalls. “I was really fortunate to have people like that who had already gone through it. I had three really good friends in the middle of being treated for breast cancer, and they were like walking encyclopedias for me.”

They gave her practical advice, like investing in button-down shirts and buying a recliner, because they had learned through experience that getting dressed after surgery is much easier when you can slide a button-down shirt over your shoulders, rather than pulling T-shirts on over your head. Likewise, a recliner is much more comfortable and supportive post-surgery than a traditional, flat bed. Shenell slept in hers for five months.

“Cancer makes you question your own mortality. It’s scary and sometimes you don’t know what to say or how to say it. So, you create this sisterhood of people who are going through this same experience because they get it,” Thompson explains.  

The surprises 

Five years after her mastectomy, Thompson is cancer free and in good health. But that hasn’t shaken her anxiety.

“I’ll get something as simple as a headache now, and I have to talk myself off the ledge. If I’m having diagnostic tests, I’ll ask the doctors, ‘Are you absolutely sure there’s nothing?’” she says.

Thompson is working to manage that anxiety through therapy, particularly since her mom was recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.

“I’ve come to realize that cancer was a very traumatic experience in my life, and it’s OK to own that. I don’t feel the need now to create this sense that I was a super person, that I endured this horrible thing and now I’m a better person because of it. Cancer sucks. It will always suck.”

Life after cancer 

For the first four years after her mastectomy and reconstruction, Thompson would visit her surgeon every six months for manual exams on her new breasts.

Now, in her fifth-year post-surgery, she’s graduated to a single MRI.  

“To me, it feels crazy. I think someone should be making sure my breasts are OK all the time,” Thompson says. 

She feels fortunate to have had a wonderful doctor who always erred on the side of caution and sought to do whatever she could for Thompson throughout her cancer journey.

“She didn’t just shut down my experience. So that’s what I teach my daughters. I remind them that it’s not just their breasts. With women, it’s your whole gynecological profile, and you have to make sure that you’re advocating for it,” she says.

We couldn’t agree more

Yet, many women don’t have access to consistent, quality medical care so they can be proactive about their health. That’s why we’re working to broaden access to life-saving mammograms for underinsured and uninsured women across our region. And we need your help. Early detection saves lives, and every gift to our Think Pink Fund goes directly to a life-saving 3D mammogram to someone in our community.

Please consider donating to help us increase access to mammograms for those in need. It’s not a cure, but it does save lives, every single day.

No more excuses. Just more mammograms.

Click below to join us and pay it forward for a woman in need.

Donate now

‘It always happened to someone else’

The first time Tammy Coulter was diagnosed with cancer, she had no signs or symptoms. A routine mammogram had turned up stage 0 ductal carcinoma — a cancer she couldn’t see or touch.

“I think I was just in shock because it always happened to someone else,” Tammy says. “When they told me it was best-case scenario — stage 0 — I just remember, my nurse navigator handed me this huge book, and she said: ‘This is all about breast cancer. You can take this home.’ I said, ‘Absolutely not.’ I just wanted it all to go away.”

Eventually it did, after a mastectomy on her left breast with clean margins and no sign of cancer infiltrating the lymph nodes.

Then, it came back.

In 2018 — just two years after her initial diagnosis — Tammy found a lump under her left arm. For about six months, she thought it was scar tissue, left over from her mastectomy and reconstruction. But when she went in for her mammogram in October of that year, she had it checked. The lump wasn’t scar tissue; it was triple negative breast cancer.

“I had a less than 2 percent chance of my cancer coming back. There was nothing in my lymph nodes. The surgeon felt very, very confident,” Tammy recalls.

And yet there it was. Tammy was 48 years old.

The road to recovery 

The treatment for Tammy’s first bout with cancer was fairly straightforward. She had a mastectomy with reconstruction — no radiation, no chemo. She was back at work several weeks later.

“It was pretty much picture perfect — the way it should have gone,” she recalls.

When she was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer, the treatment plan was far more rigorous. She had surgery at Duke Cancer Institute, where her medical team found the cancer had invaded one lymph node, and then began a treatment regimen at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center that included 12 rounds of chemo and 30 rounds of radiation.

At the time, Tammy’s daughter was 17 and her son was 8. And as her treatment began, she had sequestered herself away from the entire family.

“It was the middle of winter, so I went for eight weeks without my kids getting too close to me. Everybody was trying to make sure I didn’t get sick. I know it was hard for them. It was very hard for me because we’re a very affectionate family.”

She did lose her hair, but she embraced it, walking the runway during the Magnolias and Mimosas fashion show put on by the Kernersville Chamber of Commerce.

“I decided, why not? I was bald, but this would be a really good chance to show other women that it’s OK to be bald. This happens. This is life. This shouldn’t define you as a person,” she explains.   

By chance, the emcee for the event was Judith Hopkins, MD, Tammy’s oncologist.

“That was really kind of special,” she recalls. “That whole day, I was in my own little zone.”

The challenges 

When she was first diagnosed with cancer, Tammy was focused solely on getting through it, being done with it, fixing it.

“I didn’t want anything pink. I didn’t want to be part of that club,” she says. “Just tell me what I need to do, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

The second bout has been very different. She battled a different, more dangerous cancer, with a more aggressive treatment plan. The chances of it coming back are higher. And she’s no longer a reluctant member of the club.

Tammy and her husband own a brewery in Kernersville, and during those early days of treatment when she felt a pressing need just to get out of the house, she’d head there. 

“I hardly had any hair, and I would go in and talk to people,” Tammy recalls. “I can’t tell you how many people approached me to say, ‘I’m a 10-year survivor.’ ‘I had this type of cancer.’ I think it just gave people a chance to tell their story.”

The surprises 

Cancer is serious, but not all day, every day. There are moments of levity that show up, mostly when you least expect it.

For Tammy, one of the most memorable came on the very last day of her radiation treatment.

She was getting ready, going about her day, and she heard an “obnoxiously loud car, truck, something” driving through her neighborhood. She had no idea what was making all the noise. Then, her husband came in and told her it was her ride.

“I went to the front door, and a friend of ours had driven this pink fire truck to my house to drive me to the hospital for my last treatment,” Tammy recalls with a laugh. “We took lots of funny pictures.”

Life after cancer 

These days, Tammy sees Dr. Hopkins every three months for blood work and a physical, and she’ll continue that schedule for at least a year.

“Right now, my goal is to get to two years with no return of cancer. Then, my chances of a return go down greatly. After five years, it goes down even more,” she says.

It’s still a struggle to live with the uncertainty.

“You don’t get sick and not think about it anymore,” she says. “But as hard as it is sometimes, you can’t live in fear. It may come back, and it may not. And something else may happen in between. You just have to kind of shake it off and live your life as best you can and pray that it doesn’t come back. You can’t control it, even though you’d like to.”

What we can control

Tammy’s right. Life is full of unexpected joys and challenges. What we can control is what we do to help others. That’s why we’re working to broaden access to life-saving mammograms for underinsured and uninsured women across our region. Early detection saves lives, and every gift to our Think Pink Fund goes directly to a life-saving 3D mammogram to someone in our community.

Any donation helps get us to our goal of increasing prevention, and we hope you’ll join us in making a difference for those in need.

No more excuses. Just more mammograms.

Click below to join us and pay it forward for a woman in need.

Donate now

Family Connects nurtures happy moms and healthy babies in Forsyth and Davidson counties

The first six weeks postpartum can be difficult for mothers. It is not uncommon for the well-being of the mother to go unnoticed when their first concern is balancing all that caring for a newborn entails. Still, the mother’s well-being affects a newborn, as well as family dynamics as a whole.

Extending a hand at a time when mothers need support most helps promote quality care and comfort for all involved. These are the pillars in which Family Connects was founded upon. As one of Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation’s top fundraising priorities, Family Connects offers support to mothers during this important time, providing free in-home visits and health checks by a Novant Health registered nurse. The nurses can also extend connections to various community resources.

Mothers living in Forsyth or Davidson County are eligible to take advantage of this program, regardless of economic standing or family environment. Family Connects is a free service for patients who deliver at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, designed to meet mothers where they are.

“Knowing that there’s somebody who’s completely judgement-free, who’s going to come help, why wouldn’t you want to support that?” Family Connects patient Rebekah McAverey said. “You have people coming in and making a difference for people who otherwise may not seek help.”

Few questions or topics are off limits in this program. From breastfeeding techniques and bonding tips to introductions into nearby playgroups and parent support groups, Family Connects is prepared to offer advice on all ends of the spectrum to help families like Rebekah’s thrive.

Nurse manager Brandy Whitaker oversees the special nurses performing routine checks on mother and baby, but her most important job is making sure mothers in the area are aware of the program.

“Family Connects’ goal is really to connect families with community resources that they may need,” Whitaker said. “A happy mom is better for a healthy baby, so we’re hitting all those needs early on.”

Since 2016, Family Connects has worked tirelessly to connect mothers with resources ranging from food pantries, exercise groups, and transportation to appointments. The program has completed over 5,000 home visits to date – but that number merely scratches the surface of families they plan to help.

To date, the ability to improve the health of our communities has been funded by grants from Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust and The Duke Endowment. Moving forward, you can make a difference for the next generation by donating to this impactful program.

Click below to make a donation to help mothers and newborns thrive or learn more about how Family Connects is making a difference in the community.

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The magic of prevention: A different perspective from a different kind of survivor

In October, we talk a lot about breast cancer survivors. Patty Donoghue is a survivor of a different kind.

She had a difficult childhood, part of which was spent in foster care. Her last years in high school put her through a lot. She managed to graduate, but from a nonaccredited children’s home.

“Most people don’t pull out of that,” she explains.

But Donoghue was blessed with a few key advantages. For one, she was blessed with an innate optimism that has followed her throughout her life. She also had a few years during junior high and high school when she attended good schools that nurtured her love of art.

“I’d go to a private place and keep up with my art. It made me a survivor,” Donoghue recalls. “I have a strong belief that you keep living and you keep going, and when things get bad, you just have to keep seeing the positive side of life.”

You see that perspective in the art she creates now, including a custom ink painting she created to support the launch of the second mobile mammogram unit through Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation. The painting, titled “Chasing the Pink Bus,” features a bright pink bus — the new mobile mammogram unit — surrounded by dozens of women running, dancing and cartwheeling toward it.

“The women in the painting can’t wait to get to this pink bus, which is not really what women think about when getting a mammogram,” Donoghue says. “I wanted to give the procedure a different twist because the unit is all about prevention, and that’s such a good thing.”

Donoghue understands the magic of prevention. Before she dove headlong into art, she spent her career in healthcare, rising out of a complicated upbringing to get the education and the job she dreamed of. She started as an occupational therapist and later became a healthcare administrator. It was a time of her life when her art went dormant, except for a few pieces she made for herself. Then, a few years ago, she retired from healthcare and committed herself to pursuing art full time. 

“I think for any artist it’s a little scary because you’re very vulnerable. But at some point, you just expose yourself. To be in our space, you have to be bold,” she says.

Donoghue’s work is now part of permanent installations in healthcare buildings and has appeared in more than 20 venues, some of which have been juried by professional curators. It’s also been used to promote events and raise funds for leukemia lymphoma research, suicide prevention and women’s health, among other causes. Her signature whimsical style — a creative expression of Donoghue’s innate positivity — has developed a reputation as art that leaves onlookers smiling, no matter what. 

Inspiration for the piece came to her as part of her work with the Women’s Council, which raised the funds needed to purchase this unit. Now, underinsured and uninsured women across the region will have access to mammograms, and mammograms save lives, Donoghue says.

The same has been true of her piece celebrating the new mobile mammogram unit.

In her piece, women aren’t dreading their mammograms, as so many often do in life. They’re excited — flocking to the bus to take advantage of what it has to offer.

“I’ve had survivors tell me they were really grateful for the positive spin on it. Conversations about cancer tend to get so heavy when we’re talking about survival. But we have an opportunity to prevent, and that’s where this came from,” Donoghue says. “Mammograms shouldn’t be something dreaded. It’s prevention, and that’s something to celebrate.”

“Chasing the Pink Bus” will be on display in Donoghue’s upcoming solo art show at Footnotes in Winston Salem through the end of the year, with a reception on Nov. 13 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. For Donoghue, it’s yet another chance to show the world that mammograms aren’t something to run from, but rather something to run toward, full steam ahead.

Staying positive

The launch of our second mobile mammogram unit comes during our monthlong campaign to increase access to mammograms for women across our region, regardless of their ability to pay. A donation of any amount will go a long way toward making that goal a reality and turning a dreaded conversation into a positive one.

Consider Patty Donoghue our inspiration, showing us the light on the path to prevention.

No more excuses. Just more mammograms.

Click below to join us and pay it forward for a woman in need.

Donate now

‘I went in for that mammogram, and I knew right away that something was up.’

Eight years ago, Susan Pfefferkorn went in for a routine mammogram at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center.

Susan was no stranger to breast cancer. She’d lost a college friend to the disease back in the 1980s, and her mother had been diagnosed post-menopause. As a result, Susan had always been proactive. She had a baseline exam in her 30s, and when she turned 50, she began going back every year.

But the routine mammogram she got in July 2011 was different. Her exam turned up an area of concern, and Susan was called back for a diagnostic mammogram.

“I went in for that mammogram, and I just knew something was up,” Susan recalls. “There was something about the way the nurse rubbed my back. I just knew.”

A few days later, Susan got her diagnosis: She had breast cancer.

The road to recovery

The cancer had been caught early. That was the good news.

But it wasn’t going to be an easy road. She knew she would need surgery. She knew she needed radiation. So, she made an appointment with a surgeon.

Then, she canceled it.

“I put it off, not because I was afraid but because I decided to do something for me that was outside the box,” Susan recalls. “I bought a BMW X5 and picked it up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, so I could take it out on the road course at the BMW facility there. It gave me an outlet to completely take my mind off everything for a couple of weeks.”

When she came back to reality, she rescheduled the meeting with her surgeon, who explained the plan of attack: Susan would undergo a lumpectomy, and during the procedure, the surgical team would remove at least one lymph node to make sure the cancer hadn’t spread. Five to six weeks after that, they would begin a series of 16 daily radiation treatments.

“It was just the unknown. Anytime you hear the word cancer, it’s like ‘Oh God.’ There are so many people who’ve been through so many types of cancer, and it’s not always the same. So, you don’t know where you’re going to fall in, whether it’s going to be something very simple or something that’s a lot worse,” Susan says.

When she came out of surgery, she learned she was going to be one of the lucky ones. Her margins were clean; her cancer hadn’t spread.  

The challenges

Susan isn’t married and doesn’t have children. At the time of her diagnosis, she was the primary caretaker for both her aging parents. Within six weeks of finishing radiation, her mother fell in her home, kicking off a slew of other responsibilities and putting Susan’s focus on someone else’s health, rather than her own.

So, without family to lean on, Susan turned to friends and fellow survivors for support.

A friend took her to the hospital to have the surgery. A fellow survivor in her investment club became a confidant. Another handful of friends in the medical profession were with her on days she needed a sounding board or extra help.

Now, she pays that forward, for the women she already knows and those she doesn’t. Before her final diagnostic mammogram at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, she sat in the waiting room across from a woman who was visibly distraught. The woman told Susan she had come in for a second mammogram, after an area of concern was spotted in her first, and she was scared to death.

“I had been there, too. I knew where she was in her head,” Susan recalls. “So, I turned to her, and I said, ‘I don’t know what the results are going to be, but you’re going to be in a very loving and comfortable place. And as scared as you are right now, you’re going to have a support system here like you wouldn’t believe.’”

The surprises

When she completed her round of radiation, Susan began taking tamoxifen every day for the next five years. It was one small pill a day, but it was also a constant reminder of a time in her life she was eager to leave behind.

“I’ll never forget going to see the oncologist in October three years ago, five years after my diagnosis. He told me we could stop the tamoxifen, and tears welled up in my eyes,” Susan recalls. “To be told that you don’t have to take it anymore because you’ve come through the five years and everything is looking good, I felt like a weight had been taken off my shoulders. I felt, at that point, like I was through.”

Life after cancer

Cancer made Susan take stock of her life, of where she had been and where she wanted to go. And she made a decision to only focus on the things that mattered most.

“It’s like tossing things out of your closet that don’t bring you joy. Now, I’m only going to do the things that I want to do when I want to do them and too bad if you don’t like it,” she says with a laugh.

So, she’s traveled, to India and Sicily, with more trips planned soon. She gardens, taking a particular and therapeutic pleasure in pulling weeds. And she joined the Women’s Council of Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation to help more women get access to life-saving mammograms.

“In my case, there was no lump. There was just a pinhead speck on the mammogram that indicated a tissue change,” Susan explains. “And yet so many women don’t get mammograms. That has got to change.”

Now, we need you…

Stories like Susan’s are our successes. Her diagnosis came early, and she’s now living life to the fullest, cancer-free. Help us create more stories like hers, by giving whatever you can to support our efforts to provide mammograms to under and uninsured women across our region.

Every contribution matters, and every gift to our Think Pink Fund goes directly to a life-saving 3D mammogram to someone in our community.

No more excuses. Just more mammograms.

Click below to join us and pay it forward for a woman in need.

Donate now

‘I had no choice but to beat this.’

Dr. Patricia Flowers was religious about her mammograms. She had been since she turned 32.

She’d lost her mother to the disease when she was 5 years old. She knew breast cancer was a possibility. And she was committed to staying as far ahead of it as possible.

Then, in the summer of 2014, she found a lump in her breast. Her annual mammogram was just a few weeks away, but she decided to move it up.

“I knew my lumps, but this was different,” Patricia recalls. “What really stood out was that I felt the nodule in my armpit, in my lymph nodes.”

So, she got a mammogram and follow-up testing. Three weeks after she first found the lump, she got the call from her doctor at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. She had breast cancer, stage 3. She was 42 years old.

“I was exercising on the elliptical when he called and told me, and I just said, ‘OK’,” Patricia recalls. “And I remember him saying, ‘Do you mind if I ask if you’re alone right now?’ And I said, ‘I am home by myself, but I’m not alone.’”

The road to recovery 

Patricia called her sister first.

“I said, ‘It’s cancer.’ That was the first time I’d said it out loud, and that’s when I cried,” Patricia recalls.

That would be one of just a handful of breakdowns throughout her entire cancer journey. She knew firsthand how hard it was going to be. She also believed she would beat it, and her faith never wavered.

“I had no choice but to beat this. I just never had any kind of moment where I thought I wasn’t going to,” she recalls. “The next day I went to visit my mom’s grave, and I had a conversation with her. Then I just went from there.”

Patricia was assigned a team at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center and forged an instant connection with her doctor, Patricia Zekan of Novant Health Oncology Specialists in Winston-Salem.

“She suggested that I do the genetic testing, especially given my history. And I did have the BRCA2 gene mutation,” Patricia recalls. “She explained that meant the possibility of it coming back was greater if we didn’t really do extensive treatment.”

That’s what she did: Patricia chose to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction. She endured 33 radiation treatments and eight chemo treatments over the course of 16 weeks. Because her cancer was estrogen receptor positive, her medical team also recommended a complete hysterectomy, which thrust her into the throes of menopause with no hope of estrogen-induced relief.

She also started on letrozole, an aromatase inhibitor, in 2015, a one-pill-a-day commitment she was at first told would last between three and five years. Later, that was extended to seven years. Now, her doctor tells her it may be more like 10.

“Every time she tells me that, I think about how many medications have been spread across my counter, and now I just take this one very small pill. And I’m just really thankful,” Patricia says. “I always say, ‘I’m going to be around to take it. If you say seven years, I’ll be here. If you say 10 years, I’ll be here.’”

The challenges

Chemotherapy can wreak havoc because it is eradicating cancer from your system. Some side effects passed Patricia by, while others hit hard.

She was spared the vomiting and lost toenails. Even the nausea was manageable with medication. But she developed a blood clot in her left arm as a result of her port-a-cath. She also lost her sense of taste, right around Thanksgiving, and developed a serious infection in her mouth, which made it painful to swallow.

That wasn’t all bad, Patricia laughs. She lost a few pounds as a result.

Through it all, she had a strong support system. Her posts on Facebook reunited her with old friends and new survivors to form a community of “pink sisters” who understood what she was going through, more than her husband or sister could.

“My sister has never heard the words ‘breast cancer’ with her name attached to it. She’s never sat in that chair and watched that chemo drip. Even though they’ve gone through a lot of the visits, it didn’t happen to them,” Patricia explains. “It’s nice to talk to people who can relate.”

At the same time, some relationships outside her sisterhood have struggled, including her marriage.

“My husband and I are separated, and I’m good with that. It was for a season. And during that time, it taught me a lot,” Patricia says. “I was most vulnerable with him, so it allowed me to be vulnerable with someone. But it also allowed me to really focus on how to let go.”

The surprises 

Patricia used to say her mother “lost” her battle with breast cancer.

After her own bout with cancer, her perspective has changed and, along with it, her wording.

“I don’t say that anymore. I say that cancer robbed us of this person because no one loses that battle,” Patricia explains. “Every day you get up after you hear the words, ‘You have cancer,’ you’ve survived it.”

Life after cancer 

These days, Patricia has no tolerance for excuses when it comes to mammograms.

“Every excuse that someone can come up with, I promise I can find a way around it: ‘My breasts are smaller.’ ‘It’s uncomfortable.’ ‘It will hurt,’” Patricia says. “And I’m like, ‘You know what hurts and is really uncomfortable? Getting both your breasts cut off.’ I’m very no-nonsense about that because early detection is key.”

Patricia uses her own story as a case in point.

“My cancer was stage 3. That was with me getting mammograms every year. And I’m convinced that it was there in 2013. But because I have dense breasts and got a 2-D mammogram, it was missed. And it just grew,” Patricia explains. “I’m a strong advocate for 3-D mammograms, especially for women who have dense breasts, because that will help with the earlier detection.”

We’re advocates, too…

We’re advocates for the power of mammograms for every woman, regardless of her ability to pay. That’s why we work every day to increase access to mammograms for under and uninsured women across our region. Early detection saves lives, and every gift to our Think Pink Fund goes directly to a life-saving 3D mammogram to someone in our community.

Help us today by giving whatever you can to support the cause.

No more excuses. Just more mammograms.

Click below to join us and pay it forward for a woman in need.

Donate now

Driving remarkable care

Thank you to our donors for driving remarkable care

We want our patients and their guests to know your feedback is important to us and through our patient satisfaction surveys, we heard there is a critical need for transportation within and outside of Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center.

You let us know simply getting from the parking deck to the intensive care unit can be a challenge. You shared that after a visit in our Cancer Center, patients receiving treatment could use a lift back to their cars.

For those who require special assistance, we are here for you and are excited for the opportunity to share how our donors are helping us hit the gas pedal and literally driving remarkable care within and outside of our medical centers.

Alisha Hutchens, NHFMC vice president, Jay Crawford, volunteer driver and Chad Setliff, NHFMC president.
NHFMCF team members: Heather Egan, Development officer, LaShonda Hairston, Stewardship coordinator and fund manager and Stephanie Nichols, Administrative Specialist.
Three of our seven volunteer drivers: Jay Crawford, Travis Watson and Scott Bottenus with Calvin Smith, NH supervisor, parking and traffic.

Thank you to each of those generous donors who helped us fund these courtesy carts which include:

  • Six-passenger seating with adjustable bucket seats
  • Six-hinged hard doors
  • Electric/low speed vehicle with a top speed of 25 MPH
  • Headlights, brake lights and turn signals
  • Street-rated tires
  • Regenerative brakes, front disc brakes and rear hydraulic drum brakes
  • Seat belts
  • Automotive-grade windshield and wiper
  • Rugged rear bumper
  • Heater

Where are we driving remarkable care?

At Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center, you can grab a seat on one of the courtesy shuttles at our D. L. Davis Cancer Center or on one of the two that run between our curbside assistance and our North Tower decks.

We also are excited to share we are now driving remarkable care in Kernersville at the Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center.

Thank you to our generous donors and those who provided critical feedback to support this initiative. The investment in these courtesy shuttles will help increase ease of access in and around our medical centers and enhance the overall patient and guest experience.

Our donors make driving remarkable care possible

You are the catalyst that helps us shrink the gaps between what is and what could be remarkable care. Your gift to support our areas of greatest need allows us to accelerate Novant Health’s mission and our mission to engage and connect donors to Novant Health programs and initiatives that save lives and improve the health of the communities we serve.

With your support, programs and services reach our patients sooner and we are able to provide a more profound impact to the overall patient experience. 

In gratitude

Thank you to all of the generous donors who support the needs of our patients and their families through unrestricted gifts. The courtesy shuttles at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center were supported through unrestricted giving to Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation.  

The courtesy shuttle at Novant Health Kernersville Medical Center was made possible through the Remarkable Care Fund for Kernersville Medical Center at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation.

To support projects like this, please click here to make an unrestricted gift.

Pay it forward

No more excuses. Just more mammograms.

At Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation, we are advocates for the power of mammograms for every woman, regardless of her ability to pay. That’s why we work every day to increase access to mammograms for under and uninsured women across our region. Early detection saves lives, and every gift to our Think Pink Fund goes directly to a life saving 3D mammogram to someone in our community.

Help us today by giving whatever you can to support the cause.

“Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation has made access to screening 3D mammography a top priority over the years and they continue to provide funding for the underserved in our community through the Think Pink Fund. Early detection is so vital, and our foundation realizes how important it is for every woman to have access to mammography regardless of her ability to pay. Countless women have been touched by the efforts of this foundation and will continue to be touched through the Pay It Forward campaign.”

– Kim Cannon, Regional mammography manager, Novant Health Breast Center, Winston-Salem

Four stories of hope

Stronger together

The magic of prevention: A different perspective from a different kind of survivor

“The women in the painting can’t wait to get to this pink bus, which is not really what women think about when getting a mammogram,” Donoghue says. “I wanted to give the procedure a different twist because the unit is all about prevention, and that’s such a good thing.”

Read Patty’s story

Pay it forward

Click below to join us and pay it forward for a woman in need.

Donate now

Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center Foundation awarded $220,000 grant to support Family Connects

A grant funding free in-home visits and health checks for newborns and their mothers will support families across Forsyth County.

The Family Connects Novant Health (FCNH) program will extend more than a few helping hands to mothers and their babies throughout Forsyth County, thanks to a generous $220,000 grant awarded by the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. Under this program, free postnatal nurse home visits are available to all mothers and babies in Forsyth County, regardless of their economic standing or family environment.

Nurses are equipped to provide mothers with services such as enhancing breastfeeding techniques, weighing the baby, managing a child’s crying, helping parents bond with their new child, assessing parents’ physical and mental health and supporting parents as they return to work. Family Connects even facilitates connections to a number of community resources, such as nearby playgroups and support groups.

“As a mother and an OB/GYN physician caring for the women of our community, I’ve seen firsthand the phenomenal support Family Connects Novant Health provides for growing families,” said Dr. Pam Oliver, executive vice president and president of Novant Health’s physician network. “Supporting healthy families is one of the most impactful ways that we can improve the health of our communities, and Novant Health is committed to the continued support of Family Connects and comprehensive care for all families.”

The Kate B. Reynold Charitable Trust has supported Family Connects since its inception in 2016. Ongoing grant support has enabled the FCNH team to complete more than 5,000 integrated home visits offering timely services all new mothers need postpartum.

Novant Health’s team of resident nurses know that supporting young children and their families early enables those individuals to flourish and thrive independently. Family Connects makes accessing quality health care possible, from birth and beyond.

“Through our Great Expectations initiative, the Trust is deeply committed to ensuring Forsyth County’s youngest residents are prepared for success in school and life by the time they complete Kindergarten, and we know access to quality health services is critical to that success,” said Joe Crocker, director of Local Impact in Forsyth County at the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust. “Family Connects is one way to support a safe, healthy start for children and their families, especially those who may not have access to the resources or services they need to thrive. We are excited Novant Health sees Family Connects as an integral part of how they support babies and their families from the earliest days of a child’s life.”

To learn more about the Novant Health Family Connects program, please visit Novant Health Family Connects.

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Women’s Council: Mobile mammography campaign

To celebrate our 10th anniversary, we’re embarking on one of our biggest initiatives yet: helping more women take charge of their breast health.

A mammogram can mean the difference between life and death, but this basic healthcare service is beyond the reach of many women in our community. Mobile mammography can change this.

Our existing mobile mammogram unit is empowering thousands of women annually to take charge of their breast health. But, it’s not enough. A second mammogram bus will allow Novant Health to reach more women. With a new bus, we can facilitate early detection and prevention, and save more lives.

Here’s what it will take:


$350,000 | a new bus

Our new bus will travel to underserved areas in counties west of Forsyth and will allow us to reach more women and save more lives. A mobile unit can serve 35-40 women per day.




$450,000 | 3D equipment

The most advanced technology on the market, 3D mammography produces fewer false positives and more instances of early detection than 2D. Patients diagnosed by 3D technology have a 99% chance of being cancer free after 5 years.


$800,000 total


By the numbers:


How can you help? 

  • Host your own fundraising event – a wine tasting, brunch or cook out – and donate the proceeds
  • Gather friends and decorate bras to raise awareness for the project. Ask everyone to vote by giving $10 toward the most creative bra, and donate the proceeds
  • Start a social media fundraising campaign. Friends can make a donation at
  • Give up your weekly latte and donate to save a life
  • Teach your kids the value of philanthropy! Host a lemonade stand and donate the profits


The mission of the Women’s Council is to improve the health of women in the community. Learn more about the Women’s Council here.

Together, we can save lives. Donate today.

For more information, contact Heather Egan at or 336-718-2021