Ogden Breast Cancer Survivor Urges Regular Screening

Oct 26, 2020, 5:34 PM | Updated: 5:39 pm

SOUTH OGDEN, Utah — Due to the pandemic, many organized group walks for Breast Cancer Awareness month have been canceled this year, but that hasn’t stopped those who are passionate about the cause from showing support. One Ogden couple is still finding ways to make strides against breast cancer.

Jeff Callister’s recent love for running is about more than just the sport. He’s competing in the 35-Mile Breast Cancer Challenge sponsored in Utah by the American Cancer Society and raising funds and awareness for thousands of women including his own wife, Lynda Callister.

Jeff Callister is running the 35 Mile Breast Cancer Challenge this year in support of thousands of women including his own wife, Lynda Callister. (KSL-TV) Lynda Callister is also participating in the 35 Mile Breast Cancer Challenge, but is riding her biking instead of running the distance. Photo Credit: Jeff and Lynda Callister) Lynda and Jeff Callister pose at a Cub's spring training game after Jeff had his head buzzed in support of cancer research. (Credit: Jeff and Lynda Callister)  Between the two of them, Lynda and Jeff Callister have ten kids. They are grateful they found Lynda's breast cancer early enough to intervene before she had to do chemotherapy or radiation.(KSL-TV) Lynda Callister is also participating in the 35 Mile Breast Cancer Challenge, but is riding her biking instead of running the distance. (Credit: Jeff and Lynda Callister) Jeff Callister says his wife is "the counselor and the caretaker" of their family and others. He is grateful she was paying attention to her own health, despite wearing many hats as a woman and mother.(KSL-TV)

She was diagnosed with breast cancer nearly four years ago when she was 49 years old.

“Well, it’s shocking. I mean, you never want to hear (about) anybody being diagnosed with cancer, let alone someone that’s as close as a wife, a spouse,” Jeff Callister explained.

Between the two of them, they have 10 kids. At the time, the youngest was only 8. Jeff said his thoughts started racing.

“What happens if this cancer takes her? What about these kids? How am I going to go on without her, basically?” he said. “This little girl needs her mom and those thoughts are scary.”

Lynda had been going in for mammography screening every six months because doctors had found noncancerous masses in one of her breasts, which they removed.

“After I was cleared, with the mammogram and an ultrasound, I felt something that just didn’t seem normal,” Lynda described.

Although she had a normal mammogram just three months prior, she knew something was wrong and insisted on additional screening.

“Within a couple of weeks I ended up having a double mastectomy (and reconstruction surgery),” she said. “It was super hard.”

However, Lynda said it could have been worse if she hadn’t paid attention to her body and sought out a doctor at urgent care who agreed to perform additional screening despite her having been seen just three months earlier. Thanks to early intervention, Lynda avoided chemotherapy and radiation.

Lynda doesn’t know what would have happened if she would have delayed seeking treatment.

“As moms, as women, we get so busy and we like push things aside,” she said. “Had I not gone in when I did and (had) that doctor (not) have trusted my instinct at that time, I could have easily pushed it aside and I don’t know what the result would have been.”

Dr. Jennifer Tittensor, Intermountain Healthcare’s associate medical director for breast surgery, said mammography screening during the pandemic is critical.

“We need to go in and have screening just like we did before,” she explained.

Tittensor said for women like Lynda who find a lump or notice a change, screening should also include an ultrasound and doctor examination. While mammography screening is an excellent screening tool, she said it may not pick up everything if a woman has dense breasts or if there is a subtle change.

While most breast cancers grow fairly slowly, Tittensor said there are cases like Lynda’s when a lump can present just a couple of months after a mammogram if the spot was tiny during screening.

Back in March, there was a brief period when most hospital systems across the state stopped performing screening tests, but Tittensor said they’ve realized that like COVID-19, breast cancer is an ongoing issue that cannot be ignored. 

Tittensor said Intermountain Healthcare clinics are taking increased safety precautions like spacing out appointments to reduce the number of people in the waiting room, offering touchless sign-in tools, and wiping down surfaces in-between visits.

She said there is no reason to delay screening. “It’s important all year round and it really is a simple thing to do. It can be the difference between having a little blip in your life or having it being a major life-altering experience,” she said.

She also encourages women to perform a monthly self-breast exam. She said cancer is often identified when a patient feels something different. “You know yourself better than anybody. You’re the one that checks yourself routinely,” she said.

“Do not ignore it because we are more aware of ourselves than we sometimes give ourselves credit for,” Lynda said.

Tittensor said breast cancer is truly genetic in about 10% of women. While she said they don’t know exactly what makes up the other 90%, she said healthy living plays a role.

“There’s more and more data coming out to show that healthy lifestyle choices do reduce breast cancer risk and for women who’ve had breast cancer, it reduces the risk of recurrence,” she explained. “Very simple things like regular exercise, and eating more of a whole food plant-based diet, so more fruits and vegetables and less processed food, absolutely makes a difference.”

Lynda is also participating with her husband in the 35-Mile Breast Cancer Challenge, but she is biking the 35 miles. She enjoys getting outside and spending time in nature with her spouse.

Jeff finished the 35 miles at the beginning of the week and will continue to run this month in support of those who can’t run on their own.

“I couldn’t be prouder of him because he’s not afraid to stand with me and to just support me,” she said. “There’s going to be good days and there’s going to be bad days and he’s there, no matter if the days are good or bad, and I appreciate that so much.”

Even in her own time of need, Jeff said Lynda was always the one more worried about others than herself.

“She’s the counselor, she’s the caretaker. She’s the one that just takes anyone and everyone in to help,” he said.

Although women often wear many hats, Lynda is grateful she was paying attention to her own health.

“We can’t do good for others if we don’t help ourselves first,” she said.

“If we feel like there’s something not right, we need to do something about it,” Lynda added. “Advocate for yourself, because you’re important … and you’re needed.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Your Life Your Health

(Chopper 5)...
Ayanna Likens

How does Utah’s air quality compare to other states?

Air quality seems to be top of mind for most Utahns. But how does it compare to other states?
2 days ago
Mike Hayes says he noticed changes when he started intermittent fasting...
Ayanna Likens

The health benefits of intermittent fasting

Intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular and health experts say there are some benefits to it.
9 days ago
Marrianne Peterson is now cancer free...
Ayanna Likens

Woman pleads for Utahns to get HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer

January is Cervical Cancer Awareness Month and approximately 14,000 women in the US are diagnosed with this type of cancer each year.
16 days ago
(Duke Speer)...
Ayanna Likens

How blood donations saved a Utah man’s life

Blood donation saves lives, like that of 67-year-old Duke Speer in 2021.
23 days ago
A exercise physiologist preforming one of the test's to measure breathing. (KSL-TV)...
Ayanna Likens

A health assessment could help you reach your health goals

With half of Americans looking to improve their exercise routine, Intermountain Healthcare is offering a health assessment to get a personalized plan to help you reach your goals.
29 days ago
Marc Callister lost 70 pounds...
Ayanna Likens and Cary J. Schwanitz

How to set healthy goals for the new year

With the new year around corner, setting healthy new year’s goals is top of mind for some people. 
1 month ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Ogden Breast Cancer Survivor Urges Regular Screening