« Back to Patient Stories

Leola Kalamau: How 20 minutes saved my life

Leola shares her story about how our mobile mammography service saved her life.

My name is Leola Kalamau and I currently am the police program specialist at the Hillsboro Police Department.

I was married to one of the best men that I’ve ever known.  I was with him since I was 17.  Unfortunately, in 2013, he passed away.  But I still think of him today.  It’s kind of hard not to when he’s all I know.

To be perfectly honest with you it was just hectic being a single mom of four kids.  Going to work, then dealing with kids. Going to work, dealing with kids.  Which is not a bad life.  I think being with my kids all the time – that’s a bonus for me.

In 2016, I started getting emails about the mammogram van being at our wellness fair.  And, at that time, I was dealing with my mom being diagnosed with breast cancer.  And her oncologist would constantly tell me that I needed to go get checked.  I usually work from 7:30 to 4:00. My job is very very good at giving me time off, but unfortunately, I’m the type of mom that, if my kids get sick or an emergency happens, I need that time for them.

Mary Lucas Koach, Breast Health Services: Single mothers, for example, that are working have a difficult time taking those 2-3 or even half a day or full day’s work to go do a preventative exam when nothing’s broken.

Leola: My mom’s oncologist proceeded to tell me that “you can’t do this for yourself.  You have to do this for your kids.”

I never thought of it being a need for my children.  Once that was in my brain, the mommy kicks in and is like, “Okay, I got to do what’s best for my kids.”

So, I end up going over to the mammogram van.  I see Stacy.  She totally makes me feel completely comfortable with the entire process.  It took about 15-20 minutes at the most and then I was back at work.

Unfortunately, the next day I get a phone call from my primary care physician, Dr. Apau, and he told me that the results came back abnormal.  So then I’d have to go in and get more images done.  Biopsies as well.  And then I got a phone call that night explaining to me that they were positive for cancer.

Without Tuality and the mammogram truck, my diagnosis could have been a lot worse if we caught it a lot later.  I might not be here today if it weren’t for them.

Dr. Brandice Durkan: Over the past decade, the survival from breast cancer has increased and one of the main thoughts is this because we’re catching these tumors while they’re still small.

Leola: Now to the good news, I officially got my survivor packet August 15 of 2017.

Mary Lucas Koach: We see almost 10,000 women per year at Tuality.  And approximately 2500 of those are from our screening mobile mammography program.

Dr. Durkan: With the 3D we’re able to really more clearly define multiple types of lesions that may not otherwise be visible.

Leola: Having this mammogram van is like perfect.  Like, I hope a lot of women actually utilize this.

Mary Lucas Koach: It’s literally 20 minutes that will save your life.  The earlier we catch breast cancer the earlier we can treat it.

Leola: I tell women all the time, like, “You need to go get checked.  You need to go get checked.  You could be like me.  Be a success story.  Get on it now.”

UPDATE: March 1, 2021

Since Leola shared her story, we have a new mobile mammography van with state-of-the-art 3D screenings, called Digital Breast Tomosynthesis, for improved detection of breast abnormalities and breast cancer.