Maria Sparrow

Maria Sparrow’s battle against breast cancer began with a chance discovery of a lump while relaxing at home one June evening. The timing was fateful as she had a routine appointment with her obstetrician/gynecologist the following day.

During the appointment, the lump was undetectable, but further examination revealed a second lump that Sparrow hadn’t noticed. This led to a mammogram at Quincy Medical Group (QMG). Despite reassurances from those around her, Sparrow’s intuition insisted it was cancer. She confided in her husband, who shared her concern.

“Everybody kept saying there are scares all the time, but there was something in me that said it was cancer. And, I’m not a pessimistic person. I just knew somehow that it was,” she said.

The mammogram was quickly followed by an ultrasound, revealing the need for a biopsy. The procedure was conducted an hour and a half later by QMG Radiologist Gerald Riley, MD, supported by ultrasonographer Shauna White.

“It was just Shauna and I in the room at first, and she cried along with me. I just knew my instincts were right,” she recalled.

As Sparrow and her husband made it back for the biopsy, the moments that followed with Dr. Riley and White would be marked by compassion and honesty. Something Sparrow says she’ll always appreciate.

“Before he did the biopsy, Dr. Riley, which I will never forget and can’t respect enough, said, ‘I’m going to tell you right now you have breast cancer. I don’t think it’s fair for you to be the only person in the room that doesn’t know this. Now, we’re going to do the biopsy to find where and how much.’”

She continued, “For me, it helped me cope with everything. Instead of giving me the false sense of security, I got to process it little by little, which is a heck of a lot easier than all at once. The way I found out was so good. It was horrible to find it out, but the honesty and the transparency from Dr. Riley and Shauna was just wonderful.”

Within a swift 27 hours, Sparrow transitioned from her mammogram to an appointment with QMG Oncologist M. Amjad Ali, MD, at the QMG Cancer Institute. The efficiency of this process left Sparrow profoundly grateful. Her port was inserted on June 27, and her first chemotherapy session took place on July 3, initiating treatment just two weeks after diagnosis.

QMG Physician Logan Warner, DO, has been there for her offering support every step of the way, along with QMG Primary Care Physician Michael Eling, MD.

Her support network grew to include the team at the QMG Cancer Institute as she shared, “I don’t know how to explain that one of the scariest things in my life has been eased by all of the people at the Cancer Institute. I have yet to meet a person who does not make me feel welcomed, taken care of, and who I don’t have confidence in.”

This care was underscored when Sparrow received her test results through the QMG health app. Feeling anxious, her husband promptly reached out to Dr. Ali’s nurse, who invited them to the Cancer Institute, which provided much relief.

“She said, ‘If you’re in Quincy, you can come in right now and we’ll explain it to you.’ At 10:33 in the morning, I got the text that the test results were in and we were at the Cancer Institute by 11 that same day and getting information about what kind of cancer I have. I appreciated that so much.”

Maria’s diagnosis is Stage 3A Breast Cancer, and she is currently undergoing chemotherapy. Post-treatment, she faces the possibility of a lumpectomy or full mastectomy, along with a hysterectomy, radiation, and five to ten years of hormone blocker therapy. While the treatments have taken a toll on her body, the stage and tests offer hope of a curable path.

With her two young daughters, ages 6 and 4, and husband, Maria approaches the future with optimism.  Facebook group, “Maria’s Flock,” started by family, has become a source of support for those she knows — and some she doesn’t — to offer prayers, provide encouraging words, and share ways to support Sparrow and her family.

One recent encounter emphasizes her wide spread network of support. At a recent local parade, her daughter noticed someone wearing a “Maria’s Flock” shirt. “My daughter said, ‘That’s mommy’s chemo shirt.’ My daughter went up and said, ‘Thank you so much for loving my mom.’”

Knowing that the support she feels is also being felt by her daughters and her family is uplifting for Sparrow. The significance of the outpouring of love like this is immeasurable, she said.

Sparrow added, “It means the world to me because I know this is truly what is getting me through this. I don’t think anyone will truly know what just a simple card means. Just knowing that you have people praying for you and supporting you means so much.”