Dianne Brennan was feeling fine when she went to a clinic for a follow-up mammogram on Sept. 28 so doctors could check something they had noticed a week earlier. She was so sure there would be no problem, she went to the clinic alone. She was by herself in the Lahey Clinic’s parking lot when she phoned her husband, Lonnie, with alarming news.

Dianne Brennan was feeling fine when she went to a clinic for a follow-up mammogram on Sept. 28 so doctors could check something they had noticed a week earlier.


She was so sure there would be no problem, she went to the clinic alone. She was by herself in the Lahey Clinic’s parking lot when she phoned her husband, Lonnie, with alarming news. He was up on the roof of the couple’s home in Georgetown working when Dianne gave him the news over the phone.


“They want me to see the surgeon,” Dianne Brennan recalled saying. “They think it’s cancer.”


“I told her, ‘Just wait for me,’” Lonnie Brennan said. “I don’t even remember coming down the ladder.”


He tore down to join Dianne Brennan in the Lahey parking lot, and the couple cried together.


“We were devastated. We were in tears,” Dianne Brennan said. “I’ve been a fitness instructor for 30 years. I teach aerobics and I eat right. I’m not supposed to get sick. I’m not supposed be a patient. [Doing everything right] may reduce your risk, but it doesn’t necessarily prevent it from happening.”


Their children, Wesley, 20, Elyse, 18, and Kinsey, 14 were also worried.


“They wanted to know, ‘Is mom gonna die?’” Dianne Brennan said.


Dianne Brennan, who works as a fitness instructor at the Fitness Factory in Newburyport, also had to tell her class she was taking two weeks off.


“It knocked the wind out of their sails when I stood up in front of them and told them my diagnosis,” she said.


October sped by for the Georgetown couple, who have been married for 22 years.


“She went from detection, to biopsy, to surgery — and the ride is not over yet,” Lonnie Brennan, a former Georgetown selectman and state representative candidate, wrote in an e-mail to his friends.


The surgery was on Oct. 26, and thanks to early detection, was a simple lumpectomy and the removal of three lymph nodes for testing.


“I didn’t even have to have stitches,” Dianne Brennan said. “So far I haven’t been sick a single day with this.”


Lahey doctors are scheduled to get back to Dianne Brennan this week on whether they are recommending chemotherapy treatments to precede her upcoming radiation treatments. They have been waiting for the results of lab tests taken to assess the probability of a cancer recurrence.


Appearing on TV


When new recommendations on mammograms came out last week, Dianne Brennan got a call from Lahey Clinic.


“They said I was the ‘poster girl’ for the importance of annual mammograms, and for starting before age 50,” she said. “They asked me to appear on Channel 4 news to talk about this. They said it’s one thing for doctors to talk about the importance of annual mammograms, but here was a real person that went through it. They thanked me for being willing to put a face on it.”


On Nov. 17, a WBZ news team met Dianne Brennan at Lahey Clinic in Burlington to tape an interview. View it online at wbztv.com/video/?id=83406@wbz.dayport.com.


Critical of new mammogram guidelines


Dianne Brennan said she is appalled with the newly issued recommendations from the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force that women wait until age 50 to get their mammograms, and then get them only every other year.


“I think those recommendations are asinine,” she said. “If I’d waited until I was 50, I wouldn’t be as lucky as I am, and I feel extremely lucky. It just boggles my mind as to why, after all these years of drilling it into our minds to go every year, they’re now saying every other year. I had a normal mammogram last year. If I’d waited to go every other year, who knows what would have happened?”


Even with the tumor located and marked, three different Lahey doctors could not feel it during manual exams. It was only located because of her routine annual mammogram.


“From my initial routine mammogram to surgery was less than five weeks,” Dianne Brennan said. “They don’t wait around, and I’m glad they didn’t.”


She says a lot of people avoid getting a mammogram because they are afraid of getting bad news. The recent change in recommendations on mammograms mentions the unnecessary fear and stress resulting from receiving a false positive result.


“I’d go through a false positive any day if it meant catching another cancer early,” Dianne Brennan said.


Sussex Countian