October 23, 2023

A renewed sense of purpose after surviving breast cancer

Joy Short, a Kaiser Permanente member and employee, turned her breast cancer journey into a mission to inspire others about early detection, healthy living, and hope.

Joy Short credits the coordinated care she received from her team of specialty physicians with ensuring a successful outcome and full recovery.

At age 56, Joy Short knew she was long overdue for a mammogram.

An employee at the Kaiser Permanente Stockdale Medical Offices in Bakersfield, California, Short walked into the Radiology department one day in 2016 to schedule a mammography appointment.

This instinct would turn out to be a lifesaving decision. Following her mammography appointment, Short was diagnosed with ductal carcinoma, the growth of abnormal cells in the milk ducts of the breast. She had no family history of breast cancer and no lumps or signs of a problem so when she received her diagnosis, she was surprised.

The most common symptom of breast cancer is a painless lump or thickening in the breast or underarm. But early breast cancer is often found on a mammogram before a lump can be felt.

Short had a long road ahead, but she didn’t give up. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by radiation therapy. She opted to have immediate reconstruction following her mastectomy. With a few complications in between, Short had a total of 7 surgeries.

Strong support system made a world of difference

There to help Short through her journey was her husband, who took her to every appointment and spent countless hours in the hospital waiting room. He also became the chief cook and bottle washer in their home and an expert in surgical drain care.

Short’s Kaiser Permanente family was also important to her during her time of recovery. She recalls her colleagues dropping by with food and delivering flowers. She reflects on the care she received at Kaiser Permanente and how the surgeons and staff were knowledgeable and made every effort to provide coordinated care throughout her journey. Most importantly, Short never lost hope and stood strong in her faith during the most challenging times.

“I was so lucky my cancer was discovered early and my treatment was thorough and swift,” said Short. “I believe that God was in every detail of my journey and provided peace every step of the way.”

Finding ways to help others battling cancer

Today, Short is fulfilling her purpose by supporting a local nonprofit that provides resources such as mammography screenings, education, and more for underserved communities. She is also in the process of creating a cancer reflection garden at the Stockdale Medical Offices, which will include a water feature and inspirational quotes from local cancer survivors.

Regular mammograms can greatly increase the chance of detecting breast cancer early, when it’s easier to treat and survival rates are highest. Talk to your doctor about your specific situation.

Learn more about cancer care at Kaiser Permanente.