They share the same genes, the same childhood memories and, at age 68, Linda and Diana Ortman still live within one mile of each other. They even make it a point to spend time together each Tuesday. However, these get-togethers do not take place over coffee, or while playing cards. The fraternal twins meet for Linda’s cancer treatments, the final step towards her recovery following a two-year battle with breast cancer.
In 2010, during a routine mammogram, Linda, a Gibsonton native, was told she had lump in her left breast. The news came as a shock to Linda and her entire
family, especially since there was no history of breast cancer in her family.
“We were all caught off guard,” said Ortman who, in addition to her twin, has a
daughter, two sons, five grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. “Hearing
the word ‘cancer’ is always scary, but with the support of my family, I was
hopeful I could beat it.”
After a mastectomy, Linda learned the cancer was aggressive; she was told her time was limited. With her long-time partner passing away only five days after her diagnosis, Linda had to lean on Diana and her children more than ever. She
would also soon find support from her local doctors and their teams.
“For radiation therapy following my surgery, a close friend referred me to Dr. Steel at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology,” said Ortman. “Their doctors and nurses became a second family as I learned my battle with cancer had only just begun.”
Despite completing 33 treatments at Tampa Bay Radiation Oncology (TBRO), Linda’s ordeal worsened when a follow up appointment revealed that the cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. She scheduled surgery to have 13 lymph nodes removed. Additionally, cancerous cells were also found and removed from her lungs. Today she is two chemotherapy treatments away from fulfilling her treatment plan. Diana plans to be by her side at each.
"Linda is living proof that routine mammograms can save lives, and that is one of the most important messages we, as oncologists, can promote this Breast Cancer
Awareness month,” said John R. (Jack) Steel, M.D., FACRO of TBRO. “Many people think that without a family history of the disease, they will avoid the
diagnosis but, unfortunately, that is not the case.”
Linda is hopeful that her story will encourage other women to schedule mammograms, and this is exactly what Diana and Linda’s daughter have done. They are currently cancer-free.
“I do my best to spread the word that mammograms are important and am the first to refer my friends to my doctors and to provide advice on treatment options and medicine,” concluded Ortman. “I am glad my battle has encouraged the family I love to take care of themselves. I expect them to be around for a long time to come.”