Cheryl Fields

The Power of Partnership—A Beaufort Mom’s Journey to Beat Breast Cancer

October 2023 IssueCherylFields1023

by Courtney McDermott
Photography by Charlotte Berkeley

Cheryl Fields is used to routines. The Beaufort-area mother of seven children would not survive long without them. But nothing was routine about the screening mammogram she had last year at the Beaufort Memorial Breast Health Center.

The then 42-year-old felt fine when she arrived for her annual appointment. Following her screening mammogram, she waited patiently in the dressing room for the “all-clear" from the radiologist. She never expected she would be asked to undergo a breast ultrasound to get a closer look at some suspicious areas.

“The doctor saw something on the mammogram that raised a concern,” Cheryl recalled. “There were two spots in my left breast.”

Something Was Wrong
Two days later she met with Dr. Deanna Mansker, FACS, CWSP, a board-certified surgeon with Beaufort Memorial Surgical Specialists, to discuss the findings and schedule a biopsy. Following her biopsy, Cheryl got the call she never wanted to receive.
She was diagnosed with Multifocal, Left Breast Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. According to the American Cancer Society, it is the most common form of breast cancer in women, accounting for more than 75 percent of diagnoses in the U.S. “It was so scary,” she said. “When they tell you it’s cancer, you just think it’s over. I was such a mess. I just started crying. My husband was not used to seeing me that way, but he always stayed positive.”
Beaufort Memorial Breast Nurse Navigator Erin Bulatao-Hollifield, MSN, RN, OCN, called her shortly thereafter and assured Cheryl that the cancer was treatable. “I remember saying, ‘You mean I’ll get to see my children grow up?’” she recalled. “Erin’s news gave me hope, and I knew that I was going to fight this battle and win for my children.”

A Supportive Team.
“I could tell she was a very strong woman, but also that she was overwhelmed with her new diagnosis,” recalled social worker Kianna Brown, LMSW, of meeting Cheryl for the first time. “I had to convince her that it was okay to not be okay.” Like so many people, Cheryl did not want to be a burden to anyone, including her care team.
“Eventually we came to a mutual understanding that I was going to extend my hand to her, and she was going to take it,” Kianna says. “She was not going to walk this path alone, no matter what.”

Following meetings with her surgeon, nurse navigator and social worker, Cheryl met with medical oncology and radiation oncology experts from the MUSC-affiliated Beaufort Memorial Keyserling Cancer Center to understand her options and map out a treatment plan. The recommendation was made for Cheryl to undergo a single mastectomy followed by four rounds of chemotherapy.

Unexpected Turns
Just as Cheryl was settling into her treatment routine, life took another turn. She developed a reaction to her second round of chemotherapy, prompting a halt in her treatment. “I was so sick I thought I was going to die,” she said. According to Susanne Baisch, FNP-BC, Beaufort Memorial board-certified advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner, approximately two percent of patients experience infusion serious reactions, typically during their first or second round of treatment.

Cheryl’s team rallied around her, and her oncologist prescribed steroids for her to take before and after each chemo infusion. But just as she was resuming her treatment regimen, Cheryl and her family learned they would be unable to renew their lease and would have to move to a new home, a monumental task in the best of times.

Kianna vividly recalls a moment when Christmas was approaching, and she could sense a heaviness in Cheryl. Kianna knew that between her treatment and her family’s move, it was not going to be an easy season. “I looked at her and I said, ‘You’re going to let me help you with this,’ and she said, ‘Ok,’” Kianna recalled.

Kianna learned that the team on the hospital’s fourth floor medical/surgical unit was looking for a family to adopt for Christmas. Following one phone call to the unit’s Assistant Director Lisa Terwilliger, RN, the team leapt into action, providing Christmas presents for the entire family, and even housewarming gifts for their new home.

Surviving Life’s Storms
Today, Cheryl is cancer-free and following her survival plan, which includes more frequent screenings, regular visits with her surgeon and the use of the medication Tamoxifen for 10 years to prevent a recurrence. Cheryl is also a regular attendee at the monthly Breast Cancer Support groups led by Kianna. Her three daughters frequently attend the meetings with her. 

“We’re the only ones who really know what it’s like to live through a cancer diagnosis,” Cheryl said. “It helps ease the loneliness, the stress and the anxiety knowing that other people share the same struggles.”

Her advice to others? “Get your annual mammogram. Do your monthly breast self-exams. Tell your doctor if you notice anything that looks or feels different. It’s important, and it does save lives,” she said.

“Having breast cancer does not have to be a death sentence; I’m living proof!”


Breast Cancer Support Group:

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Breast Cancer, please consider joining a local cancer support group. The free Beaufort Memorial Breast Cancer Support Group is facilitated by a licensed, master's level social worker to ensure patients are not alone during such a challenging time in their lives. There, attendees will find a safe space to discover healthy coping skills and create a network of support and compassion.

The monthly Breast Cancer Support Group meets every second Wednesday from 6 to 7 p.m., in the Beaufort Memorial Medical Plaza. For more information call group leader Kianna Brown, LMSW at 843-522-7328 or visit