2020 has had its challenges for everyone, including myself. I thought the hardest thing I would have to encounter would be giving birth via c-section to my first child during a pandemic. I knew my 35-year-old body would have its work cut out from that, but turns out I would have a few other obstacles. October has always been the month to “Geaux Pink”, but this year it has taken on a whole new meaning in my family.
A few months ago, June 8, 2020, I went to my annual OB-GYN appointment, just three months after giving birth. My doctor walked in, did a thorough pelvic, abdominal and breast exam. And like every other routine appointment, I walked out with a clean bill of health. I was happy to have one more thing checked off my to-do list, and be able to continue adjusting to life as a new mom.
Two weeks later I noticed a lump in my breast, while putting on a sports bra. Nonetheless, I wasn’t concerned—I was a young, new mom, and I really didn’t have time for this. “It’s just a fibroadenoma,” I convinced myself. I didn’t even want to trouble my family and tell them I had gone for a biopsy and was awaiting results. The word cancer was so far back in my head and vocabulary.
However, that quickly changed. The word cancer was suddenly at the forefront of my mind when I was given the breast cancer diagnosis on July 22, 2020. Everything has seemed like a whirlwind since that day. I underwent a bilateral mastectomy in August, started a 16-round chemotherapy plan in mid-September, and will do six weeks of radiation after.
There’s nothing easy about handling a Stage 3C breast cancer diagnosis like that, and everyone’s going to react differently, but I truly believe this fight and course of treatments is easier with a positive attitude and a fighter’s spirit. I have always considered myself an outgoing and positive person and I think cancer completely put that into overdrive. I want to be strong and positive to not only be able to beat this, but for my little girl, I want to see her grow up. It’s an extremely hard challenge, feeling like a bionic woman whose head is in a constant fog from the chemo drugs, but I’m standing tall and trying to be a light in this dark time.
My cancer diagnosis has also taught me a lot about myself and those around me. I have learned to trust in God more than ever before, and I will see a victory in this. The same God that has brought me an amazing husband and this beautiful little girl, even after a miscarriage, is the same God that is carrying me through this darker chapter. We must embrace our chapters, and fight through them. God is in the valley, just like he is on the mountain.
The immense outpouring of love from everyone has helped me through all this as well. My husband, Vince, has earned the title “Jenn’s biggest cheerleader” and I have no idea where I’d be without his love and support. My family has gone above and beyond to help in any way possible—love the Pruett-Squad & Legockis. I am so thankful for my friends and other loved ones for their constant calls, texts, cards, prayers, love and thoughtful good vibes. And a huge thank you to Dr. Rebecca Boudreaux for all that she’s been through with us, I appreciate the calls checking on me. THANK YOU everyone!
I am also thankful for the Breast and GYN Cancer Pavilion, a partnership between Woman’s Hospital and Mary Bird Perkins – Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center. I believe between Dr. Bowie, Dr. Zatarain, and Dr. Castle, I have the absolute best woman on the planet in my corner fighting with me through my journey. Dr. Taylor Theunissen is an absolute blessing in making me feel the best I can during all this as well.
I can’t go without thanking Woman’s Hospital as a whole. They bring life into the world and save lives through the cancer center and med-surg floor. And while I never thought I’d experience both in the same year, I’m thankful for the amazing facility that I became quite familiar with and the staff who helped me through the highest highs and the lowest lows this year brought.
So, if I have any advice? Schedule your annual mammograms. Go to your annual well-woman visits. But also be diligent with self-breast exams and call your doctor if something doesn’t seem right (any lumps or bumps, or odd feelings). It could save your life. It did mine.
Through the generosity of our community donors, the Foundation for Woman’s supports free mammograms to any woman who cannot pay. We do this on our campus and through our two mammography coaches. Woman’s is also a partner of Louisiana Cancer Prevention & Control Programs, that enables us to provide no-cost mammograms and Pap tests patients with barriers to care.