Screening Mammogram Helps Save Darlene's Life

August 10, 2018
Darlene with cart web

After Darlene Norris had finished lunch at the NHRMC Cafeteria, she stopped by a table where NHRMC offered employees a fast, simple way to schedule a mammogram. Darlene was due for her screening, so she signed up on the spot. Darlene had lost a sister to breast cancer at age 30, so she never missed an appointment.

Her adherence to a yearly mammogram schedule ended up saving her life.

Darlene visited the NHRMC Medical Mall for her 3D screening mammogram, and the results showed dense tissue that prompted a follow-up diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The evening after those tests, she received a call that she needed a biopsy. Two days later, a surgeon removed part of the mass and confirmed that Darlene had breast cancer.

“You just cry it out, and then you move on,” Darlene said recently during a break from her shift in the environmental services department at NHRMC.  “You get it out of your system and regroup. Then you ask, ‘What do I need to do to get through this part of my life?’”

Darlene was diagnosed with Stage 1 non-invasive carcinoma of the milk ducts. While a cancer diagnosis can be overwhelming, Darlene took solace in the fact that her cancer was Stage 1 and had not spread. That meant her chances of surviving were better than 95 percent.

Darlene Norris with Dr. Patrick Maguire

Darlene insisted on being surrounded by positivity.

“I called my family together and told everybody to stay positive,” she said. “All of our thoughts would be about getting well and being healthy and happy.”

After all, Darlene had fought cancer before.

Three years before her breast cancer diagnosis, Darlene had been diagnosed with Stage 1 lung cancer.

Darlene lost part of a lung, but after her treatment, she recovered fully. Shortly after finding out she had lung cancer, she moved back to southeastern North Carolina and joined the team at New Hanover Regional Medical Center.

She loves meeting patients and families and greets them with a comforting smile as she cleans and disinfects areas in the Emergency Department.

When she takes a break or goes to lunch, Darlene chats with her co-workers about the importance of yearly mammograms, and several have been convinced to have their screenings.

“Sometimes they are scared and don’t want to know the outcome,” Darlene said. “But I tell them, ‘If you need a support person, I’ll be there.’”

And the support runs both ways, Darlene said. After her surgery and as she undergoes radiation, her co-workers show their concern.

“They always ask if I need something or give me a thumbs up. We have some wonderful people who work for this hospital,” she said.


NHRMC now offers 3D screening Mammography without a physician referral. If you are due for a mammogram, you can schedule an appointment at any NHRMC Health & Diagnostics location by calling 910.667.8777. NHRMC will send your results to your physician.


Schedule a mammography appointment:


Topics: Cancer
Great story line/article. Awesome job Darlene, keep the light shining.
Does NHRMC offer any type of support group for women who are, or have been through breast cancer? Or do you know of any groups in the area?

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