Basic Instincts: Janelle Proves that Knowing Your Body Can Save Your Life

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Breast Cancer

As a wife and mother of a young son, 33-year-old Janelle enjoyed any time spent with her family. Unfortunately, health can be fleeting, even at such an early age.

Upon discovering a lump that “felt like the size of a grape,” Janelle scheduled an appointment at the MemorialCare Breast Center at Long Beach Memorial for a mammogram. Although breast exams are typically recommended to women after turning 40, she didn’t want to take any chances.

Janelle’s care team soon found two masses in her left breast from the mammogram. Because she had a family history of breast cancer after her grandmother’s diagnosis, an ultrasound and biopsy were immediately performed the same day to get Janelle and her family the answers they desperately needed.

Two Days Later

On September 16, 2011, she “knew when my phone rang at 11:45 a.m.” that the biopsy proved to be what she’d been dreading – cancer. Janelle was diagnosed with the most common form of breast cancer among women – Invasive Ductal Carcinoma. Fortunately Janelle was able to begin chemotherapy treatments sooner than most patients because she was diagnosed in just three days.

Linda Chan, radiation oncologist, MemorialCare Breast Center, knows how vital finding Janelle’s cancer so quickly was, “Especially when you have a young woman, there is quite a bit of risk that her cancer may be more aggressive. The younger you are, the more aggressive it tends to be,” she says. However, even with a proactive approach to her health, Janelle and her family weren’t out of the woods just yet.

After Six Grueling Rounds of Chemotherapy 

Janelle was scheduled for a lumpectomy to assess the success of the treatments. Sadly, the results of the procedure showed no clean margins, meaning not all the cancer had been killed with chemotherapy. As the form of cancer she was battling had the ability to spread to other parts of her body, Janelle bravely decided to have a double mastectomy because, at 33, she knew she “had so much life left.”

With such an upsetting diagnosis for a young mother, anyone could understand if Janelle felt bad for herself. However, she never went through a “why me?” phase. Instead, she just asked, “why now?” But with breast cancer patients getting younger and younger, the most significant step for any woman is “to make that phone call” the minute you find something unfamiliar, she says.

As a precaution to finding an irregular lump or mass as Janelle did, Dr. Chan sincerely recommends “women getting mammograms every year like clockwork.”

Throughout her journey, Janelle continues to find solace in the support groups and “emotional support behind the scenes” available at the MemorialCare Breast Center. It was in this cancer community that she learned to educate herself on her condition because “everyone’s cancer is unique.”

Team Spirit Breast & Ovarian Cancer Walk

Janelle just completed her final radiation treatment and was in attendance for the 12th annual Team Spirit Breast & Ovarian Cancer Walk. The event on Sept. 15, coincidentally, took place one year from her breast cancer diagnosis, and she couldn’t have been happier to celebrate with her family. “That was my finish line,” Janelle says.

She feels she was given a chance at recovery and a life beyond cancer because of the care from the MemorialCare Breast Center. Through diagnosis and treatments that many people view as a “sentence,” Janelle says, “I knew I was in good hands. I can’t even put into words what they have given my family.”

Aside from a cherished “dream team of doctors,” Janelle has found a “life beyond all of this” with the help of her MemorialCare Breast Center family.