RICHMOND, Va. -- Michelle Futrell spent much of 2019 fighting and surviving breast cancer. It was the year the lung screening coordinator and navigator at VCU Medical Center became a patient herself.
“I found a lump in my own breast doing a [breast] self-exam,” Futrell said.
During her biopsy in January, Futrell knew something wasn’t right. Fighting back tears, Futrell remembers that moment.
“My husband met me over there. I remember afterwards, I just knew I had cancer,” Futrell said.
The diagnosis was Stage 2 breast cancer.
“It’s a blow. It was still a blow to hear you have cancer,” Futrell said.
Her treatment would begin with 16 rounds of chemotherapy.
“I'm a nurse. I've accessed people's ports and all those things. When it comes to you going in, they're going to access your port and give you chemo, it feels a whole lot different,” Futrell said.
Towards the end of chemo, Michelle would do something on a total whim.
“I was getting ready for work. I was bald from chemo and I sent an audition video in,” Futrell said.
Futrell became a contestant on her favorite game show, "Wheel of Fortune," and won $8,000.
“Even if I hadn't won any money, I would have been one of the best experiences I've ever had,” Futrell said.
On the heels of her game show high, Michelle’s cancer treatments would continue with a lumpectomy and radiation.
Futrell said her cancer journey now helps her to better connect with her own patients.
“I can put myself in my patients' shoes. They expressed their fears to me. I can really speak to them from that place to say I understand,” Futrell said.
Futrell also has a message for her fellow nurses: “Remember, we’re taking care of people and not diagnoses. We really have an opportunity to make an impact.”
When CBS 6 first talked with Futrell in 2020, she had just completed her cancer treatments. A year later, Futrell is cancer free.
On the 6th of the month, CBS 6 and VCU Massey Cancer Center remind women to contact their buddy to remind them to conduct a monthly breast self-exam. If it is time, you should also schedule an annual clinical breast exam and mammogram, which are key to early detection.