Anger, relief for breast cancer survivor
Nearly eight years ago, just six days before Christmas, Judy Jensen found a thumb-shaped lump in her left breast. If she had fear, it washed away when a doctor determined the foreign tissue non-cancerous after a mammogram.
Two years later, Jensen went in for a physical and mentioned the cyst to her new doctor.
This time, the doctor determined the nodule was cancerous.
“I was really angry because I had discovered it in 1996,” Jensen said. “At that point I wouldn’t have had my left breast removed.”
Since 1985, October has been designated Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Research on the cancer, which had 203,500 female and 15,000 male cases in 2001, hints at lifestyle changes that could decrease the chance of getting the disease.
Canadian scientists recently found that women who smoked during their teenage years have an increased chance of developing breast cancer. Health officials from Harvard released results of a study, spanning more than 20 years, on the diet of thousands of women.
The study found calcium and Vitamin D intake helps decrease the chance of getting the cancer for premenopausal women.
Marin County, the northern neighbor of San Francisco, has experienced a nearly 7 percent yearly increase of breast cancer among women between the ages of 45 to 64 years during 1990-99, according to the Breast Cancer Research Web site.
The Marin County study, and another focusing on numbers in Long Island, questioned the environment’s relationship to breast cancer incidents.
But among all the findings, Valerie Finigan, a public health nurse for El Dorado County, wants more data done.
“It’s hard to contribute one factor to one disease,” Finigan said.
The Health Status of El Dorado County 2002 report stated that two years ago, the county ranked 29 out of 58 in breast cancer deaths. The county’s age-adjusted-death rate was 25 per 1,000 women. The number was aligned with the state and lower than Sacramento and Placer counties.
“It’s probably due to early detection,” Finigan said of the county’s rank. “I think we have women interested staying healthy and active and getting their health screening on a regular basis.”
Finigan added early detection improves the five-year survival rate to 97 percent.
Linda Stroot is president of the South Lake Tahoe Cancer League and a breast cancer survivor. She cited three avenues of help the organization provides: money for treatment, transportation to get treatment in Carson City and Reno and a $1,000 scholarship to Lake Tahoe Community College.
The money is reserved for a student interested in a medical profession.
Thirteen people were transported off the hill for an individual 33 days of treatment this year, Stroot said. Six were women breast cancer patients who needed 28 to 32 days of treatment.
Jensen, who found a lump near Christmas, said one year she had 110 doctor visits.
A year ago, she decided to move to South Lake Tahoe with her husband after his melanoma cancer and her breast cancer went into remission. The scare left Jensen, 60, wanting to pounce on her dream of a mountain life to replace her urban life in the Santa Cruz area.
She has remained working as a wide-reaching credit manager for O’Neil wet suit company. No longer does she need eight vitamins a day.
During radiation and chemotherapy treatment that left her body heated and fatigued, Jensen proudly said she only missed two days of work.
“It kills all the cells, the good ones, the bad ones, it just wipes you out,” Jensen said of therapy.
Once a year she helps with the Stanford Community Health Breast Project. A 33-year-old co-worker was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and Jensen spends time sharing her knowledge and experience with the woman.
Asked if she held a form of gratitude to the cancer for her lifestyle change, Jensen said she didn’t.
“I wish I never had breast cancer because there is a big risk involved but (having it made) me to realize I needed to move away,” Jensen said. “I just feel like everyday above the dirt is a good one.”
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