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Surviving Cancer

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. We asked readers to recount how breast cancer has touched their lives. Here is one of those stories ...

The Breen family: Victoria Prestia of Illinois (from left); Michele Chalmers of Gainesville; Diane Paciencia of San Antonio, Texas; Joan Breen and husband Grover of Fleming Island; and son Chris of Melrose. Victoria, Diane and Joan are all breast cancer survivors. Joan Breen is also an ovarian cancer survivor

My name is Joan Breen. I am 78 years old, mother of five (one son deceased), and I live in Eagle Harbor, Fleming Island. I have been married for 61 years to my husband, Grover. I have a story to tell about breast cancer. And, have tried to do it in “not so many words.” 

I have survived ovarian cancer for 24 years. Thanks to my oncologist and six 9-to-5 hours of chemotherapy treatments, I am here today. My life went back to normal after I was told I was “cancer free.” But in the summer of 2004, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and had a mastectomy.

There was a question as to whether the two cancers were related. I was given a BRAC analysis test and the results showed that “no deleterious mutation was found in BRACA1 or 2.” I was told I did not have a gene to pass on to my three daughters, but it would be beneficial for them to be tested.

Then, to our dismay, my two oldest daughters were diagnosed with breast cancer. My 59-year-old daughter in Texas had her left breast removed and the 56-year-old daughter in Illinois had both breasts removed. I was with them both during and after their surgery as I felt the need to give them my support, share my experience and help them adjust to living after cancer.

My daughter in Texas got a prosthesis; the one in Illinois had implant reconstruction. Both are happy with their decisions. As for my youngest daughter, she has her mammograms faithfully. And she has visited and participated in the program at the Hereditary Cancer Program at UF Shands Cancer Center. She has thus far been cancer-free — as have my two other daughters.

There is a happy ending to “getting on” with life after cancer.

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