PINK month: Nancy McElyea Survives Cancer with Early Detection

Jennifer Bethurem
Director of Public Relations Lake Regional Health System
Nancy McElyea relied on the support of her husband, Charlie, to get her through her cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Nancy McElyea was not expecting a breast cancer diagnosis, but when it came, she never considered getting her care anywhere other than Lake Regional Health System. 

McElyea is a retired Kindergarten teacher and long-time resident of Camdenton. The mother of two and grandmother of four loves making memories with her family and friends. Every day, she and her husband, Charlie, go for a long walk with their dog. They also love to travel and explore state and national parks. 

In February 2019, the couple was enjoying a vacation in Florida, when she felt something suspicious in her breast. 

“I was not too concerned but thought it would be best to have it checked out when I returned home,” McElyea said.   

The Diagnosis

McElyea had a mammogram and breast ultrasound at Lake Regional Imaging Center that detected a lump; a biopsy then confirmed that it was breast cancer. 

Lake Regional Oncologist Maggi Coplin, M.D., determined that a lumpectomy was the next step. Because McElyea’s cancer was detected early, she did not need radiation or chemotherapy. 

“Nancy had an OncotypeDx test after her biopsy, which looks at 21 different genes to help determine the benefit of chemotherapy,” Dr. Coplin said. “She had a low risk of cancer recurrence and was able to skip chemotherapy and go straight to an anti-estrogen pill. We also discussed lifestyle choices to decrease her risk of recurrence, including diet and exercise.”

Lake Regional General Surgeon John Patton, D.O., FACOS, performed the lumpectomy, and McElyea felt like a weight had been lifted when the doctors told her for certain that the cancer had not spread beyond her breast. 

“After I had my lumpectomy and was told my lymph nodes were clear, I could finally breathe a sigh of relief,” McElyea said.  

McElyea credits the support of her husband, who volunteers as assistant secretary on Lake Regional Board of Directors, and her team at Lake Regional for helping her get through her diagnosis and treatment. 

“Charlie was my rock through it all, going with me to every appointment,” McElyea said. “I felt very blessed to have a support team at Lake Regional that worked well together. I would always ask the doctors what they would do in my situation, and I felt confident that they were giving me the best advice and care possible.”   

Compassionate Care

McElyea has seen Lake Regional Health System grow tremendously during the past 40 years. Her family relies on Lake Regional for all of their health care needs, and three out of four of her grandchildren were born at the hospital. McElyea’s positive opinion of the health system was amplified after her experiences at Lake Regional Cancer Center.  

“Everyone from the receptionist to the nurses and beyond were encouraging and caring,” McElyea said. “I could tell it was important to all the workers at the Cancer Center to provide personalized care to every patient.”

McElyea was grateful that she did not have to travel a long distance for quality care. She also felt encouraged during her treatment by all the women who called to offer her support and advice. Now she feels like it is her turn to be an inspiration to others. 

“Make sure to have regular check-ups and screenings,” McElyea said. “I think all women should do self-check exams as well because no one knows your body like you do. You are your own best advocate and should make your health a top priority.”