Susan Cerutti-Jensen: A local woman's battle with breast cancer - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather

Susan Cerutti-Jensen: A local woman's battle with breast cancer

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Name: Susan Cerutti-Jensen
36 years old
Personal: I have been married for 13 years to my husband-Rick Jensen.  I worked 13 years in the financial industry prior to my diagnoses.

I'm 36 years old and was diagnosed with HER 2 Positive breast cancer two days before Christmas.  I can tell you exactly where I was when I was diagnosed.  It was a Friday and I was scurrying around the house trying to get those last minute holiday tasks done when the phone rang.  I was home alone in my kitchen.  You see, we never anticipated that the news would come back cancer.  Just typing the word "cancer" is still a bit difficult.  Breast cancer doesn't run in my family.  It's now a part of my life-yet it doesn't begin to define me.  I will one day be a breast cancer survivor.  Cancer survivor sounds much better. 

I can still remember saying to my Mom, "...but I'm not done with my Christmas to-do list...."  She retorted something to the effect of "...that's not what's important right now."  I'm a planner and being diagnosed with cancer was certainly not part of my plan. 

My story starts in June.  I went in for my annual exam when my doctor found a lump in my breast.  I could tell she found something because when she put pressure on it, I too could feel it.  She assured me that it was nothing to worry about and that it was probably just a cyst.  (The lump was a couple of inches in size.)  I'd been seeing her for several years so I trusted her and took her advice.  Looking back, I can't believe I did and I learned a valuable lesson-trust your instincts and take charge of your own health care. 

Fortunately, a few days later my husband discovered the lump and asked me about it.  A chill went up my spine.  I told him about my visit to my doctor and what the doctor had said.  He didn't feel good about the advice that was given to me and asked that I talk to my Mom about it.  In doing so, she insisted that I call my doctor back and insist they order a mammogram.  After receiving several nudges from my family, I called my doctor and asked for a mammogram.  (I didn't want to sound like a hypochondriac.) 

I went in and Inland Imaging conducted both a mammogram and an ultrasound.  The nurse called back and said that I should have a biopsy just to be sure the lump wasn't anything significant.  I was scared.  Finally I got the call and the results were devastating.  For days I remember thinking, "How could I have breast cancer?"  I'm an outgoing person with a full life. I didn't have time to battle cancer! 

Since then, my doctor (surgeon) performed two lumpectomies, a mastectomy, and lymph node removal.  (The cancer had spread to the lymph nodes-fortunately only one of them.)  The pathologist that reviews the tumor from the lumpectomy gives the cancer a rating on a scale of either 1-3 or 0-9 to determine how aggressive the cancer is (the higher number being more aggressive). In my case, I'm a grade 3 (on the 1-3 scale) and a grade 8 (on the 0-9) scale.

I received 16 rounds of chemotherapy and lost my hair.  I'll be on a drug called Herceptin (for HER 2 Positive patients) through April, 2007.  The drug is also administered through my port. 

On November 1st, I will have my reconstruction surgery!!  Since being diagnosed, I've walked in three Race for the Cures, three Relay for Life Races, and my Race for the Cure team raised $14,000 for the Susan G. Komen Foundation.   

I know I will survive.  I know I will thrive....I'm thriving right now.  I'm surrounded by wonderful people and I've chosen to let them in on this journey that I'm on rather that remain private about it.  As a young woman with breast cancer, I can share my experiences in the hopes that we'll all learn from it. 

Susan Cerutti-Jensen

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