Jean R.

Breast Cancer - Stage IIIA

Jean-R
quotation

As soon as I walked through the front doors, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. I met with everyone who would be part of my care team, including a medical oncologist, surgeon and supportive care clinicians. We discussed my treatment options. They understood the urgency I felt. When testing was completed, I was able to access my results within 24 hours. I liked feeling included and having accessibility to my medical records. The doctors answered my questions, and they even prayed with me. Together, we chose a treatment plan, and I was ready to fight. I knew I was in good hands.

I was born in Michigan, but I grew up in Arizona. I was married and had my daughter, Briana, with my first husband. It didn’t work out, and I focused that time in my life on spending time with my mother and daughter.

Then I met Ralph, and it was a whirlwind romance. We met, fell in love and married, and then he moved us to his ranch just outside of Houston in the Sam Houston National Forest in Texas. It was here that I raised my daughter, cared for the farm, rode horses, grew a garden and focused on healthy living. I went back to school and became a nurse. I was happily working at a trauma hospital in critical care. My daughter was growing up beautifully, and life was moving merrily along.

Then in 1997, my mother passed away from cancer. It was heartbreaking because we did everything we could to help her. We took her to major medical centers, and she got several second opinions. I used my nursing skills to try to navigate her cancer care. My mother’s death left a lasting impact on our lives. If I try to find a positive from it, I can see that this experience may have prepared my daughter and me for our futures.

Being in the medical field and knowing my mother had passed away from cancer had me on high alert. I went in regularly for mammograms. Then in 2015, I was notified that there was something suspicious in my right breast. I went back for additional testing, including a biopsy, and I was soon diagnosed with breast cancer. I tried not to panic. Instead, I went into research mode. I wanted to know everything about my cancer and the treatment options available to me.

Taking back control

A cancer diagnosis invokes a lot of feelings. For me, I didn’t like the feeling of not having control. So I empowered myself with information. I requested my medical records to review. One day, while looking through them, I saw that four years earlier, something had been noted on my mammogram in my right breast, but it was not addressed. I was surprised, disappointed and then sad. Was my cancer something that could have been caught earlier? These thoughts manifested into a desire to want the best cancer care for me, and I actively sought it out.

I talked to people in the health care field at work, asking about doctors and hospital systems. I tried to gather as much information as possible. I went online to read about my cancer and the treatment options available. In my online research, Cancer Treatment Centers of America® (CTCA) was always included in my search results. Then one day, I picked up the phone and called CTCA®. Three days later, I was flying to Tulsa, Oklahoma, for an initial evaluation at the CTCA hospital.

As soon as I walked through the front doors, I knew this was the place I wanted to be. I met with everyone who would be part of my care team, including a medical oncologist, surgeon and supportive care clinicians. We discussed my treatment options. They understood the urgency I felt. When testing was completed, I was able to access my results within 24 hours. I liked feeling included and having accessibility to my medical records. The doctors answered my questions, and they even prayed with me. Together, we chose a treatment plan, and I was ready to fight. I knew I was in good hands.

My first step was surgery in July 2015. Considering my family history, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy. I didn’t want to go through this twice, so I opted to remove both breasts, even though only one was affected.

I started chemotherapy. I didn’t handle it well. I cried, and I was sick. I lost my hair right away. But the doctors and nurses at CTCA did a lot to help me. I went to counseling, I had massages. I learned relaxation techniques, and I took naturopathic supplements for some of my side effects. During my chemotherapy, I found out that I was going to be a grandma. My daughter was pregnant with my granddaughter. This gave me renewed strength and someone to continue to fight for. I had to beat cancer, and I had to get through it.

In 2016, I started radiation therapy. My friend, Margaretha, stayed with me for seven weeks at the guest quarters at the hospital. She was a retired nurse, and she was such a blessing to care for me. We truly bonded. I met so many people during my radiation treatment, from CTCA employees to other patients. There was a sewing group at the hospital, and in my time there, I made three quilts. Together, the others in my sewing group and I spent hours talking, laughing and crying. It was a very spiritual experience to connect with others, and it helped renew my faith.

Life’s ups and downs

I was at the end of my cancer treatment and just going back to CTCA every three months for checkups in 2017. Just as life was looking up, I found out that my daughter, Briana, was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was devastating because she was so young, with a toddler and a career she just started. But there was no doubt in either of our minds where she would go for treatment. While I was in treatment, she had come with me to CTCA many times and felt the same connection that I did to the hospital.

So that’s when I stepped in to care for my daughter and granddaughter. I knew Briana would get expert cancer care at CTCA. I was scared, but I had faith that we would get through this because we are strong women with a lot to fight for.

My experience has changed who I am. I try to stay positive. Cancer opened my eyes to life. I am more empathetic and caring. I have a newfound respect for people and a different outlook on life. I have learned to let the little things go.

I focus on healthy living. Most of what my family and I eat is not bought from the grocery story. We live off the land. We grow our own fruits and vegetables, and we can them so we can continue to enjoy our produce over the winter. We have chickens and eat their organic eggs. Our neighbors have a dairy farm, and we trade with them. We eat meat from local farmers.

I live an active lifestyle caring for our ranch, horses and seven dogs. God brought me to my beautiful home. I am blessed and thankful. I’m grateful for the care I received at CTCA and for the support I had from my family and friends during my treatment. I have renewed strength and a love for life. Today is a gift and a blessing from God. I am thankful for all I have.

Diagnosed:
May 2015
Treatment at: