WESTFIELD - Deanne Vaughn knows the importance of getting an annual mammogram.
The Ripley native missed one in the 1990s. She doesn't plan to do so again.
"I didn't really think about it," said Mrs. Vaughn. "My mom had had breast cancer for a few years. There are three of us daughters, and I'm the oldest. I never thought any of us would get breast cancer."
Deanne Vaughn of Westfield poses for a photo in her home. Mrs. Vaughn is a breast cancer survivor and has been cancer-free since 1998.
P-J photo by Scott Shelters
In 1997, Mrs. Vaughn was living in Montgomery, Ala. Her husband, Bobby, was working at Maxwell Air Force Base as an operating room nurse. In September of that year, Mrs. Vaughn learned she had breast cancer.
"Because I missed one mammogram, when I went back in, they found a lump," she said. "They put me in right that day to get a biopsy. ... They decided to go in and take it out. It was so big, they couldn't get it all. They said I had to have a mastectomy."
Vida Meeder, Mrs. Vaughn's mother, lost both of her breasts and had prosthetics. Mrs. Vaughn decided to do something different in October 1997.
"I wanted to have reconstruction," she said. "I wanted to be different than my mom because I don't think she really had the opportunity to do that. My surgery lasted 11 hours. I had a modified radical mastectomy on my right side, and then I had TRAM flap reconstruction on my breast. ... I'm a whole, reconstructed new woman. I love it. I'm very happy I had it done."
Mrs. Vaughn received chemotherapy and radiation. Her final chemo treatment took place Jan. 15, 1998. Her mother died the next day.
"I got to say I loved her that morning on the phone," Mrs. Vaughn said.
For more than 14 years, Mrs. Vaughn, now 56, has been cancer free. She and her husband moved to Westfield in 2008. The move allowed her to be near her father, Robert Meeder, who was having heart problems. Meeder has macular degeneration and is also a cancer survivor. Mrs. Vaughn does most of his driving and grocery shopping.
"I'm glad to be up here now and helping to take care of my dad," Mrs. Vaughn said. "That's why we're up here now because I didn't get that opportunity with my mother."
The Vaughns have enjoyed living in the Westfield area. They've lived in 15 places, but Western New York is among their favorites.
"I'm glad to be healthy, and I'm glad to be back home," said Mrs. Vaughn, who graduated from Ripley School in 1974. "I am a Meeder. This is my area. I'm around my old friends and all the people I missed for years. Bobby loves it here. He's very happy."
The Vaughns have two sons: Gabriel and Alexander.
Mrs. Vaughn feels healthy and tries to take care of herself.
"I feel good, and I want people who have breast cancer to know that it's not how it used to be," she said. "It's not a death sentence. You're probably going to be fine and healthy. But, you don't want to miss your mammograms, especially if you have a history in your family. I missed one year, and it was so bad that I lost my breast, and it was in my lymph nodes. You miss one year, and you don't realize what you're doing to yourself. My mom had cancer, and I should've made sure I had them."
Mrs. Vaughn's sisters, who have never had breast cancer, get regular mammograms. Mrs. Vaughn hopes to receive her diagnostic mammogram later this year.
"I've already lost one breast. I don't want to lose the other," she said. "It's been 14 years, and I'm doing really great."
For more information about breast cancer, including prevention and diagnosis, visit health.ny.gov/publications/8506/index.htm.
For information about breast cancer treatment, visit health.ny.gov/publications/0401.