Breast cancer was part of her family history. Veteran and VA employee Maureen Heard knew she would fight a battle like other family members before her.
“It was January 2020,” she said. “I’d just posted to Facebook about my nana, who died on Jan. 2, 1966, from breast cancer and how much I missed her. That’s when I was notified of a suspicious finding on a recent mammogram,” said retired Air Force and Coast Guard lieutenant Maureen Heard.
Heard is chief communications officer for VA New England Healthcare System in Bedford, Mass.
“I wanted to know immediately what was going on, and Manchester VA Medical Center got me into Elliot Breast Health the next day,” she said. “The diagnosis was confirmed, followed by an ultrasound.”
Heard normally receives care at the Manchester VA Medical Center. Although it does offer radiological services, it does not include breast-related imagery. These services are performed by community providers who are part of VA’s Community Care Network.
Warrior cry: “Don’t put cancer screening off.”
Given a personal nurse navigator
As a result, VA determined Heard to be eligible for community care and referred her to Elliot Breast Health. In addition, to avoid uncertainty and delays that cost precious treatment time, VA assigned her a personal nurse navigator.
“If an image is abnormal, a personal nurse navigator follows up with additional orders and appointments until all care is reviewed and complete,” said Kelly Hunt, RN, Women’s Health, VA Manchester and Heard’s navigator. “If it’s a cancer diagnosis, we work with the Veteran’s Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) to place additional consults, educate the Veteran and include them in building their care plan.”
“I had a lumpectomy followed by four weeks of radiation, took a daily hormone blocker and an infusion every six months to prevent a recurrence,” Heard added. “Today, I have no evidence of cancer. I was made to feel confident that I could and would make the final decisions on my care.”
Unique insight to help improve health care for women Veterans
Heard posted about her experience on Facebook to help others frightened about getting care to treat cancer.
“I love helping other Veterans get the care they’ve earned and deserve,” she said. “Being a female Veteran gives me a unique insight to help improve health care for other women Vets.
Heard holds her cancer at bay and her warrior cry is clear: “Don’t put cancer screening off, catch it early for the best outcome,” she said.
To learn more about specialized care and resources available to eligible women Veterans, call or text 855-VA-WOMEN (1-855-829-6636), visit our women Veterans health website, or contact your local VA medical facility.
For cancer awareness resources, please visit Breast Cancer Awareness – Women Veterans Health Care (va.gov)