Jo-Ann's Story: I Kicked Breast Cancer to the Curb

Jo-Ann's Story: I Kicked Breast Cancer to the Curb

My story started in 1996 when I was 34 years old. My mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. I asked my doctor to please order mammograms for me since my mother had ductal carcinoma in situ. Every year I had a mammogram whether I had to pay for it or not. In January 2004 when I had just turned 40 and bought my first house 90 miles away from my doctor, I went for one last mammogram in my hometown. Most years I had to go back for repeat mammograms due to my dense breast tissue so this year I jokingly said to the tech to make sure she got a good picture because it would be an hour and a half to drive each way for a repeat. Well as with previous years I got the letter saying I needed a repeat, GROAN, so I took time off from work went to have it done. They looked at results and sent me over to the local hospital for an ultrasound. I was thinking at this time "Oooh, this is not good". I went for an ultrasound and the tech left me on the table to get the radiologist. The frown on her face told the story.

She said to me "Call your primary care physician when you get home". I walked out to the car in a haze and drove to work. When I got there I called my PCP and asked her to fax the findings. She said "These are not definite, you need a biopsy" and I said " I need an appointment with a surgeon". Well to make this story short I was then diagnosed with Stage 3 invasive ductal carcinoma of the breast. In one year! From one Mammogram to the next, I developed this aggressive form of breast cancer. I was only 40, I was only supposed to start having mammograms, my sisters, one older and one younger, had not even had one yet. I had just met the man of my dreams, we had just bought a house - this was not in my plans.

I started treatment right away. Two surgeries later they took half my breast, my modesty, and the cancer. I still had my sense of humor, family, friends and love. I started Chemo immediately after that. I decided to go on the fast track. I was not wasting any time. I started with a wonderful cocktail called ACT. I had chemo every two weeks and daily in between I had injections to keep my numbers up. I continued to work full time in my job as a medical software trainer. As soon as my hair fell out I started wearing a scarf and continued teaching. When I finished chemo, I then had 35 rounds of radiation and finished up in September 2004. What a year! The next year my step daughter who was 10 at the time wanted to start a team for Relay for Life. We have had a team every year since and typically we raise $5,000 toward cancer care for the American Cancer Society. Every year my stepdaughter and my best friend go into Boston for the Strides walk. The picture shows me and my best friend Michelle on mile 3 of the walk a couple years ago (oh look - my hair all grew back!).

If I had been diagnosed in 1996 instead of 2004, I would not have lived. Because of Breast Cancer Awareness and the funds raised, research is helping us get closer to a cure and is helping to put people into remission. Though I have been cancer free for 6 + years, I must always be diligent as there is no cure for my type of breast cancer. I plan to be around a long time and making people aware of Breast Cancer as much as I can. I always say I kicked breast cancer to the curb, what better way to live that statement than to have a Pink Cart?

By the way I married that man who stood next to me during the whole adventure! Life is Good.