Breast Cancer Survivor Story

| October 1, 2010

JENNY HRBACEK SHARES HER EXPERIENCE AND OFFERS TIPS

Cancer has no timeline and did not care that I already had plans for the next year. When I received the diagnosis of breast cancer in April 2009, I found that I would be forced to find time for this uninvited intrusion is my life. This last year began a life-changing journey. Little did I know that the year would round out with five surgeries, four rounds of chemotherapy, a PET scan, MRI, nuclear heart scan, CT scan, bone scan, and more doctors appointments and lab tests than anyone should endure in a lifetime. In addition to the huge medical bills, the lack of control over the situation was sometimes overwhelming. I have personally experienced and understand the deep sorrow that often envelops a cancer patient.

During this month of breast cancer awareness, I wanted to speak out and share a bit of my experiences in an effort to provide strength and support to others. My first advice to any newly diagnosed patient is to stay calm and breathe!  This was not something that I was able to accomplish at first. I just wanted the cancer out, and I wanted it out quickly. Time is important, so use it wisely. It is believed that cancer cells double every 90 days. Always network with your church, friends, neighbors, etc. I found a fantastic breast surgeon and plastic surgeon this way. Select someone who you trust to be objective through the decision-making and treatment process.

Most newly diagnosed cancer patients are too upset and fearful to see and hear things clearly. Make an appointment with surgeons, plastic surgeons and oncologists, even if you are not sure that you will use or need their services. Know that the surgical choices made in the beginning may require radiation, which can make breast reconstruction difficult due to the resulting poor integrity of the skin.  Get second opinions, even if they confirm your previous information and decisions. You only get one chance to go through this process, and you don’t want to have any regrets. This is not a time to worry about loyalties or hurting someone’s feelings if you do not take their advice. Also, consider alternative treatments in conjunction with traditional therapy. The information is out there, but is sometimes difficult to find. There are many things that you can do to support your body and immune system.

The three pieces of advice that I would like to give is to eat a low sugar diet, exercise, and remove as many chemicals from your diet as possible. Did you know that a PET scan is a scan following an injection of radioactive sugar? The cancer cells eat the sugar and put off an orange glow allowing the cancer to show up on the scan. Cancer cells love sugar.   My favorite natural sweetener is Xylitol.  It is low gylcemic and a safer alternative than regular sugar or products with high fructose corn syrup.

Also, cancer cells do not like a high oxygen environment; so hit the gym and exercise. Finally, as a Christian, I don’t believe that we were ever created to eat the vast array of chemical additives and preservatives that are in our foods today. Clean up your diet and eat fresh diary, produce and clean meat. Yes, I do mean that new craze “grass fed beef and organic chicken.” Get back to basics with your diet. I am pretty sure that altering the diet of our animals and injecting them with growth hormones and antibiotics was not a good idea. Basically, if you can’t pronounce the ingredients on a food label, you probably should not be eating it.

Don’t forget to check out your water. Cancer patients need good clean water. It’s out there. You may need to do a little research. I drink Mountain Valley Spring Water or Aquafina. I hope that these simple things might empower you or someone you love to take back control and be strong.

Recently, I joined the board of a faith-based cancer support foundation, Reconstruction of a Survivor. The foundation will be presenting breast cancer support group sessions beginning in October at the Sugar Land Methodist Hospital. I want to personally invite anyone experiencing breast cancer to join us. Visit www.roasurvivor.org for more details and meeting times.

Finally, I have to admit that my friends and family were right. There is usually something good that comes from our trials. I just had a hard time seeing that in the beginning. Today, I get a lot of joy from the time that I spend with other newly diagnosed women offering them encouragement.

I also work with Dr. Kelly Dempsey of Sugar Land through a new venture called “PINK INK” to help breast cancer patients maintain a positive self-image. Unfortunately, the treatment for breast cancer will often leave women with an altered physical appearance. We provide reconstruction of the breast areola by the use of permanent cosmetics. I love being a part of the final step of the reconstruction process. The smile on our patients’ faces says it all.

Ladies can also receive permanent eyeliner and eyebrows to enhance their look while undergoing chemotherapy that produces hair loss.  What a difference a little permanent make up and a great wig can have on a patient’s self esteem.   Painless procedures are done using sterile technique in the medical office with the use of small lidocaine injections. After being out of nursing for 15 years, I have loved using my skills again to become a post-mastectomy and permanent makeup specialist.

If I can offer support to you or a loved one, I can be reached at 832-875-8767.

My doctor has a pillow in her office that reads, “Yes, they are fake, my real ones tried to kill me.” Remember to laugh, watch funny movies, spend time with friends, and always give thanks to all that life has to offer you.

by Jenny Hrbacek, R.N.


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