My Breast Cancer Survival Story written by Jennifer Smith
CANCER. A six letter word that on October 19, 2020 would eventually bring me to my knees, scared for my life in a parking lot, feeling all alone. I had skipped my annual mammogram in 2019. I didn’t think twice about it because everything seemed normal. So, I rescheduled my mammogram for October 2020, and went on about my life.
The day of the scan I remember looking at the image on the screen and I knew something wasn’t right. There were little dots all over one area on my left breast, and with a huff, I told the tech those were new. She pulled up my previous scans, and after comparing them with my new scans, I was told I would be coming back for another mammogram and possibly an ultrasound. “Now is when you get scared”, I thought to myself. When I returned for my diagnostic mammogram, the radiologist informed me I would need to go for a biopsy, and I should consult with a surgeon. My world started to crumble at that moment and I felt like my greatest fear was most likely coming true.
“Invasive Ductal Carcinoma” was all I heard on November 4, 2020. My OB-GYN’s voice just over and over. Wait? What? 1,000 questions raced through my mind and all I could hear, paralyzed, was invasive ductal carcinoma. I was referred to a surgeon to begin charting my course on this journey.
My diagnosis and the steps I would need to take began with my surgeon, Dr. Caren Wilkie.
I would have chemotherapy first, followed by surgery, then radiation. It’s a lot to take in and try to understand. It was all so overwhelming.
- ER/PR negative?
- HER 2 positive cancer?
- With wait, what?
- Node involvement?
Next up came port surgery and my appointment with Dr. Ruby Deveras at Halifax Health – Center for Oncology. My head was spinning for days and days until I met Dr. Deveras and Jennifer Peludat, Breast Navigator, Halifax Health – Center for Oncology. It was through their patience and care that I was, for the first time, put at any ease.
Terrified, December 1, 2020, I started treatment. With Covid protocols in place, no one could be with me during my treatments. Thankfully the nurses were amazing, and I tolerated treatment well. Who knew I would celebrate my 50th birthday bald?! I embraced my new look and went with it.
On April 1, 2020, I rang my first of several bells after six chemotherapy treatments. The MRI showed chemo worked in shrinking the tumor from 7.5 cm to 2.5 cm; however, it hadn’t worked on the nodes, which puzzled everyone. It was after my surgery that my doctors discovered a second cancer present, triple negative. My medical team assured me it could be taken care of, and now it was time for radiation. Dr. Alvaro Alvarez and the rest of the radiation team were wonderful. Every day for seven weeks they supported me and got me to my second bell ringing.
Cancer treatment is no joke and wreaks absolute havoc on your body. My family, friends, doctors and my Port Orange community helped me in ways that I will be forever grateful. They helped me stay positive and find something to smile about every day. If you are reading my story, the one message I would like you to take away is “Go get your mammogram, it’s so important and can save your life!”
Jennifer Smith has been teaching elementary school in Volusia County for 30 years, and is a beloved second grade teacher at Cypress Creek Elementary. She is also mom to Jared (19) and Julia (17).
If you have questions about screening mammograms or a recent breast cancer diagnosis, please call Jennifer Peludat, Breast Navigator at 386.425.PINK. For more information about Halifax Health – Center for Oncology, please visit halifaxhealth.org/cancercare.