Maureen Harriman, Breast Cancer Survivor


On a good day, it’s two-and-a-half hours from Tupper Lake, New York to Burlington. If you take route 30, you pass through Saranac Lake, sailing past tall white pines, before you come to the ferry, which crosses Lake Champlain and takes you to Burlington’s waterfront.

Maureen and George Harriman say they’ve probably made this trip over 20 times...and it all started with one tiny spot on a mammogram.

It was in September, on her first trip to the Breast Care Center, that Maureen learned she had cancer in her left breast.

After discussing her options with the Breast Care Center team, Maureen decided to go ahead with a lumpectomy, to be performed by Ted James, M.D.

“Having the surgeon, the plastic surgeon, and the radiology staff all in one place definitely made the experience easier,” says Maureen. “Their skill and compassion helped me through that first difficult day.”

Maureen also had a patient navigator — Maggie MacLeay, R.N. — who supported her as she talked to specialists about next steps.

Maureen ended up having two lumpectomies, after which it became clear that Maureen’s cancer was more extensive within the breast than previously thought.

Dr. James told Maureen that a mastectomy might be her best option. “He was so genuine, warm and caring,” says Maureen.

“I had total confidence that it was the right thing to do.”

Within a few days, she was discussing her upcoming surgery and breast reconstruction with Plastic Surgeon Susan MacLennan, M.D.

Maureen also underwent a pre-surgical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam the day before her mastectomy—further testing to confirm the exact location and extent of the cancer.

Radiologists specializing in breast imaging found a suspicious area in her right breast.

“At that point,” says Maureen, “I was numb.”

Breast Imaging staff knew that they would have to juggle multiple schedules so that Maureen could have the tests she needed that same day.

“As a team, we did whatever we had to do — whether it was working overtime, or juggling our schedules,” said Dr. Primm, a Breast Imaging radiologist.

Breast Imaging staff arranged for a series of needle biopsies and another MRI, to confirm the location and extent of cancer in the right breast.

Maureen and George, who have three children and are both school teachers, deeply appreciated these efforts.

“Every trip to Fletcher Allen involved finding a substitute to teach our classes; leaving very early in the morning so that we could be back when our kids get home from school,” says Maureen. “So being able to stay at the Breast Care Center until we had our answer was a gift.”

That night, Dr. James confirmed that Maureen also had cancer in her right breast. He suggested that she might want to postpone the following day's surgery to have time to consider her decision —  but Maureen had made up her mind. "I didn't want to worry any more," she says.

Within days, Dr. James performed the double mastectomy. Dr. MacLennan followed with the initial reconstructive surgery.

Pathology reports indicated that all the cancer was removed.

"We received excellent care at the Breast Care Center," Maureen says. "But it was more than that — it was the way every single person made us feel that there was no one more important than us at that moment. They gave me hope and confidence when I needed it most."