Shelly Barnes, mother, overcomes breast cancer with the help of her family and the NWI Breast Care Center

Shelly Barnes, mother, overcomes breast cancer with the help of her family and the NWI Breast Care Center

Breast cancer is a disease that many have been affected by in the United States. According to the National Cancer Institute, breast cancer is the most common form of cancer in the country, with over a quarter of a million cases being diagnosed in 2023. With a diagnosis come a bevy of new concerns: treatment, work accommodations, transportation needs. For a mother like Shelly Barnes, however, the biggest concern can be getting through treatment for your family.

Barnes was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014 after experiencing pain in one of her breasts. As a preschool teacher, Barnes’ lack of insurance presented itself as a barrier to diagnosis and treatment until she discovered the Northwest Indiana (NWI) Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals thanks to the help of her daughter-in-law.

“My daughter-in-law called Methodist Hospitals, and they said that they had received the Bears Care grant and that I should come in,” said Barnes. “I came in and found out that, yes, it was cancer. When I got into the Bears Care program, the grant paid for my mammogram, and another company paid for my biopsy.”

As Barnes began treatment, she received a bevy of support from her family. She was able to move in with her son, her family purchased her a new phone, and she felt all of the love she put into raising her children coming back to her.

On top of the support from her family, Barnes felt that the staff at NWI Breast Care Center were in her corner the entire way.

“They have the nicest people there, and some of the women that were taking care of me had had breast cancer. They’re so knowledgeable; they give you information that you wouldn’t normally know,” Barnes said. “If you have a problem, whatever issue it is, tell them.”

Barnes has now been cancer-free for the past decade after her chemotherapy and radiotherapy. She’s gotten a new house in Crown Point and has returned to work. Additionally, she’s become an advocate for women staying on top of their breast health, advocacy that begins with her own family. 

Barnes is a mother to three daughters and is very close with her daughter-in-law, and her experience with breast cancer has pushed her to make sure the other women in her family are healthy.

“I’m that mom who’s always asking ‘When are you going to make your appointment?’” Barnes said. “They all know about the importance of self exams and mammograms because, when I brought home all of that information from the Breast Care Center, I brought enough information for all three of them.”

When Barnes’ daughter-in-law began complaining about a pain in her breast, Barnes was quick to tell her to get it checked out. When her daughter-in-law was eventually diagnosed with breast cancer and needed to undergo treatment, Barnes was able to offer additional support since she had been through the treatment before.

“I knew what it was like going through the chemo, the radiation,” she said. “I would go over there periodically and just help – the laundry, chores. I’m like her adopted mom, so when she told me that she felt something, I told her to get it done.”

Apart from helping her daughters and daughter-in-laws stay on top of their annual mammograms and breast self exams, Barnes had helped them to become conscious about the food they eat. Barnes changed her diet as part of her recovery, and her daughters now follow a similar diet and feel better than they ever have.

Barnes has also referred numerous people inside and outside her family to the NWI Breast Care Center in the hopes of finding problems early and getting treatment quickly.

“Early detection can get you a long life,” Barnes said. “If you have a family, a husband, children, grandchildren, whatever, wouldn't you rather be alive to see them grow up? A lot of people really rely on moms, grandmas, aunts, and everything else even if they won’t admit it. People need you; you've got to be healthy for them.”

The Northwest Indiana Breast Care Center at Methodist Hospitals has helped over 1,000 women receive free mammograms through the Bears Care grant since 2013. To learn more about the center or to schedule your appointment, visit