Honoring breast cancer survivors . . .
Dee Ahrent was 42 years old when she was diagnosed with breast cancer twenty years ago. It was the second mammogram she ever had. In a year and three months, cells had changed and the second mammogram detected cancer. “It was devastating. If I had waited any later I wouldn’t be here probably”, Dee shared. She underwent a biopsy and the doctor was hoping to just do a lumpectomy. “When they got in there they saw that it was too big. On the mammogram the spot didn’t look as big as it was.” What doctors found was that what appeared to be a one centimeter area was actually a ten centimeter area. Dee underwent a mastectomy of the left breast and had 12 out of 20 lymph nodes that tested positive. “That’s bad. The surgeon told me, she said she was going to pray it’s not metastasized because I was at the very cutoff right there. I was a Stage 3B.” After the mastectomy she started chemotherapy and the radiation. The chemo came first. Ahrent had the HER2-positive breast cancer gene. It actually makes cells grow faster so cancer grows fast. At that time, they had a medication coming out in a study on trial. Dee went into a trial out of Washington. “The study had three tiers: One was with Herceptin with chemo, one was Herceptin after chemo and the third one was no Herceptin. I really needed that Herceptin, but it was the luck of the draw. I did get the one”, she explained. “I got the Herceptin after chemo. So I had to do my chemo and then I had a year’s worth of Herceptin IV and radiation. That trial got Herceptin approved now. I really believe that’s what saved me. “
She recalls, “It was devastating I had two small kids. You just have to take it a day at a time. I tried to keep working, I had people that were really good to me and were supportive. That always helps. You know, you think, you just feel so, … the chemo experience; you can’t imagine how bad it makes you feel. You think you’re never going to be human again.” Ahrent said her radiation experience was hard on her body. “My radiation back then was bad. They didn’t have the fine technique they do now. They were just hitting me hard with whatever they had. Of course, I’ve got burns and scars, thank goodness now, they have perfected that. That’s another good thing that has come.”
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