KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — UT Medical Center's Breast Center manager has a special connection to breast cancer, one that allows her to connect with patients on a deeper level.

Leah Bowling may work in the mammography department at the hospital, but her connection to breast cancer hits close to home.

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Hundreds of patients go through the doors of UTMC's Breast Center for mammograms, screenings, and appointments.

"It's important to us to do the best job possible because it could mean saving your life," Bowling explained of the Breast Center. "Our mission and goal here is to make it the best experience possible."

Bowling has worked in mammography for many years, but in 2010 when her own mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she suddenly went from healthcare provider to care giver.

"It was shocking, overwhelming. Although we know in this world that it can happen to women, we see it happen every day. I don't think when you live in this world you don't think about it being a part of your world personally sometimes," Bowling said.

The process allowed Bowling to see beyond her work.

"It was a wonderful experience, if you can say that," Bowling admitted. "To be able to see first-hand what a patient experiences when they leave the breast center with a breast cancer diagnosis and begin the treatments."

But then a year later, when her mother was wrapping up cancer treatment at UTMC, Bowling got another wake up call.

"And in 2011 during my routine screening mammography in October, I was diagnosed with cancer as well," Bowling explained of her own diagnosis.

Doctors caught the cancer early, but her coworkers then switched roles to become Bowling's caretakers and providers.

She said she wouldn't trade the pink ribbon for anything.

"It is life changing," Bowling smiled. "And it was a positive life change and a reminder to me to slow down and to take care of myself and to enjoy life. To enjoy my family. To enjoy the things that are important."

Bowling encouraged every woman to make regular mammogram appointments.

"I do believe awareness saves lives and screenings yearly save lives," Bowling explained. "It could have been a much different story if I had not had my annual mammogram."

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