A Breast Cancer Survivor's Personal Journey

October 10, 2014


Bobbie Jerry of DuBois had her regular mammogram on Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. A few days after Christmas, she expected the usual in-and-out appointment and to be on her way. She had things to do.

But the staff at Breast Care Services at Penn Highlands DuBois held her up for a moment because a spot on the mammogram x-ray was brighter than the previous year. She then found out she needed to have a biopsy that Monday. What timing! She was leaving to celebrate Christmas with her daughters in Maryland.

That Monday, she had an ultrasound guided biopsy done by DuBois general surgeon Dr. Eric Lundgren. 

Waiting for the results was hard. She woke up early that following Thursday morning and “I just knew it was positive,” she said. And when Lundgren called he confirmed her fears. Bobbie and her husband, John, had the doctor on speakerphone and after hearing the results, she wasn’t sure how much more she took in of the conversation. It wasn’t much.

“This can’t be happening,” she said she thought. “I feel fine.” She never took medications and was reasonably healthy. “This wasn’t supposed to happen,” she said.

The next step was a MRI which confirmed what was happening, and in February, she had the lump removed.

During this time, Bobbie also met with Dr. Carmine Marchioli, a medical oncologist at Oncology Hematology of Northwest PA. “It really hit me when my appointment was with oncology,” she said. “The word oncology was used in relationship to me! It’s a scary word.”

After surgery, Bobbie found out that her cancer was stage one. It was invasive ductile carcinoma, which meant that it was going into the ducts of her breast. Though she did manual checks of her breast, she never felt anything because the cancer was located deep inside.

“Self-exams monthly and an annual mammogram are a must, according to Connie Cribbs, women’s imaging manager at PH DuBois Breast Care Services, said. “Mammography, an x-ray of the breast, is the best screening tool for breast cancer. It can reveal things that manual exams cannot.”

“Technology is also advancing, making detection even better and saving lives,” Lisa Housler, director of Ancillary Services and PACS administrator at PH Elk, said. “Digital mammography – used today at all Penn Highlands Healthcare  hospitals - uses computers and specially designed software to produce an image that can be displayed on a high-resolution computer monitor. Clinical studies have shown that there is a 65 percent improvement in breast cancer detection with digital mammograms as physicians can recognize suspicious areas better in digital images.” 

When should a woman get her first mammogram?  The American Cancer Society and Penn Highlands Healthcare agree that the age is 40 unless suggested otherwise by a doctor based on your family history,” Darlene Rowles, imaging supervisor, of PH Clearfield said. “It is important to get your yearly mammogram screening because it can detect abnormalities up to two years before you can ever feel them,” Rowles said. 

And now, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, is the perfect time to think about scheduling a mammogram if you haven’t had one within the past year.

 “Women who get yearly mammograms have a much higher chance of finding a problem area sooner,” Karl Nichols, manager of Imaging Services at PH Brookville said. “The earlier a problem is found, the better the results are when fighting it.”

Throughout Bobbie’s journey this past year, Bobbie credits her husband John for providing support. He was with her for every appointment, four rounds of chemotherapy that ended in June and 33 radiation treatments at Hahne Regional Cancer Center that ended in August.  

“I am grateful to the staffs at the Breast Care Center and at Hahne,” Bobbie said. “They were all fantastic and very supportive. We really are blessed to have Hahne here in DuBois.”

She continues having even more support through the Breast Cancer Support Group at PH DuBois. “You can open up and bounce ideas off each other about what works and what does not,” Bobbie said. “It’s really nice, and I would like to see more people come out for it. Patients need to come right away after diagnosis. That’s when it’s most terrifying,” she said. And the support group would alleviate a lot of fears. “You hear a lot of horror stories (from people who never have had cancer).”

The Breast Cancer Support Group of PH DuBois meets on the second Sunday of each month at 6 p.m. in Hahne Regional Cancer Center. It is only for those who have or had breast cancer – from the newly diagnosed or long-time survivor. The next meeting is a little different as it will be at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 12, at Luigi’s Ristorante, downtown DuBois.

In Clearfield, Bri’s Angels Support Group meets quarterly at PH Clearfield. For more information, call Salinda Cowder, facilitator, at 765-9347 is the facilitator.  Or there is Hope is Alive Support Groups which meet at 12:30 p.m. every Monday at the Nathaniel D. Yingling, M.D., Cancer Center. 

All support groups are open to patients of any facility anywhere. It doesn’t matter where treatment was received.

“I am glad it is behind us,” Bobbie said. She is still going to support group meetings and her follow up appointments. “I’m feeling better all the time.”

 

Bobbie Jerry of DuBois had her regular mammogram and what followed was a whirlwind of appointments and care to treat her breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and the perfect time to schedule a mammogram or, for anyone who has had breast cancer, to join a support group to help yourself or others.