Each October the JB Ashtin team works alongside others to end breast cancer. We contribute by
Because breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in the United States, we aspire each year to raise awareness for this disease; however, this October feels quite different. We are emboldened to fight harder to educate others about breast cancer prevention and warning signs, because one of our own received a breast cancer diagnosis earlier this year.
The Diagnosis and Surgery
After discovering a lump in late April, Sue was devastated to learn that she had breast cancer. Thanks to her diligence and use of breast self-examination, Sue understood the signs and acted accordingly.
Like many women who receive this diagnosis, she jumped into research and question mode. Unlike most, one of Sue’s best and trusted friends is an oncologist. “Having a close friend as my doctor has been a blessing that I don’t take for granted. Everyone should receive the same quality of care, and it pains me to know that women often wait months for a diagnosis or treatment due to insurance or financial red tape.” For women who do not know anyone in the medical community, ask everyone for referrals and get a second opinion!
Breast cancer treatment has evolved at a blinding pace over the past decade. Armed with knowledge from her research and encouragement from her family, Sue scheduled a bilateral mastectomy in June. Sue is fortunate to have a dedicated support system and impressive healthcare team that reassured her about her choice. The surgery was a success and before that anesthesia had worn off, she was already requesting a Starbucks® coffee.
Sue is a high-energy, on-the-go person. Recovering while having limited mobility that impacted her activities of daily living was a challenge. There were difficulties in getting dressed, managing the post-surgical drainage tubes, and the dealing with the constant fatigue. Fortunately, a close friend gave Sue a special tank top called the Recovery Camisole.
It opens in the front, secures with Velcro, and includes sewn-in pockets to hold drainage bulbs. “This simple gift made me feel a little more normal and not like a machine. I could do things on my own and even go for a walk without tubes hanging all over.”
Being able to maneuver better because of this camisole improved her mood and her recovery. In fact, she did so well with her recovery that she attended the company BBQ just 15 days after her surgery, where she proceeded to kick butt at cornhole and paint a beautiful landscape.
The surgery and quick recovery were not her only miracles. Sue’s chemotherapy schedule consisted of Taxotere and Cytoxan every 3 weeks for 4 cycles because her postsurgery pathology evaluation showed clear margins and lymph nodes. She didn’t need a port or lose her hair! She credits maintaining her hair to the use of a cold cap before, during, and after each chemo session to cool hair follicles and prevent chemotherapy from penetrating the roots. Sue wants women to know that a cold cap is an option they could speak with their doctor about.
She has no way of knowing how much she inspired us; we watched her triumph over this challenge with bravery and grace. Her unshakeable will caused her to face this difficulty head on with an upbeat attitude. We always knew she was a fighter, and she continues to prove it every day.
Sue experienced insurmountable emotions during the past 5 months. Her journey inspired her to help more women get the support they need. She desires to start a nonprofit to provide a recovery camisole to every woman who undergoes a mastectomy.
We know that a diagnosis of breast cancer unearths many emotions for the patient and their family. Sue confirmed that anxiety, fear, and uncertainty are just a few of the emotions she originally felt; however, the lasting emotions are those of gratitude and humility. “The support I’ve received during this journey has been overwhelming. I can’t cure cancer (yet), but I can do my best to make someone else’s journey a little easier.” Sue’s example has shown us that a diagnosis can also bring hope. Thanks to the research, innovation, and care of healthcare providers, Sue had hope, which carried her through an exceedingly challenging time. She is brave and fearless role model for all of us who call her our friend.
Annually, breast cancer accounts for about 1 in 3 of all new female cancers. This year alone, approximately 287,850 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women; 51,400 new cases of ductal carcinoma in situ will be diagnosed; and 43,250 women will die from breast cancer.
Please consider donating to a breast cancer-related organization. We chose The Pink Fund this year. This group provides financial support to women who are not able to pay their household bills because of the cost of medical care. In a recent conversation, Sue mentioned “This could have easily been me. I am a single-income household. I was incredibly fortunate to be able to work from home postsurgery and during chemo. No one should have to worry about paying bills when the only focus should be on healing.”
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