‘I never thought breast cancer would hit me’

Breast cancer survivor shares how she put breast cancer in rearview mirror

Breast cancer survivor Jessica Arend sits with her husband and three sons in their backyard.

I am a wife and a mother to three little boys. A year ago, breast cancer was foreign to me. I was in my 30s, and I never thought I would get breast cancer in my lifetime, much less before I was 40 years old.

Then in March 2019, I felt a lump. Breast cancer entered my mind at that moment, but I never thought breast cancer would hit me.

I did want to get it checked out right away and went to the Edith Sanford Breast Center for a mammogram and ultrasound.

One moment, I remember laughing and joking around with the technician and my radiologist, Dr. Christopher Johansen. Then I heard the words that will forever stick with me. “Is there anyone here with you today?” Dr. Johansen asked.

This is real

That scared me, and I asked him, “Can you just be brutally honest with me? What do you think this is?”

He told me he couldn’t say for sure without more testing, but he was fairly certain it was breast cancer. I laid there in shock and disbelief. I had tears streaming down my face because it just seemed so unreal.

Dr. Johansen was fantastic and scheduled a biopsy later that week. After we received the official diagnosis of breast cancer, my husband, Robbie, and I felt clueless in this brand new cancer world.

There was never a question; we were going to Edith Sanford for treatment. The next week, we met with our team including our breast surgeon, Dr. Jesse Dirksen, and the oncology and radiology teams. Dr. Dirksen has been life-changing for us. He is spectacular, and I don’t think there is a breast surgeon in the world like him.

Learn more: Preventing and fighting breast cancer at Sanford Health

There are so many facets to breast cancer, and we just didn’t know what to do or what to say. We had so many questions and no idea what was coming. Our Edith Sanford team really answered everything for us.

After we met with our care team, they came up with an aggressive treatment plan, but my scans showed that my cancer was curable. That was excellent news, and from that moment, it didn’t matter how hard the chemotherapy would be. We were just so excited that I would live.

Providing hope for the future

When this all started, I was scared of the future, but my path at Edith Sanford has really brought back my excitement for it. I am excited to grow old with my husband and see my kids grow up.

I am going to see my boys graduate high school, go to college and get married. I’ll get to be a grandmother someday.

There is so much comfort in knowing there will be an end to this. I will be able to look in the rearview mirror and see cancer behind me. That makes me very excited.

I owe my life to my care team at Edith Sanford. I don’t use that phrase lightly. Thank you just isn’t enough. If anyone asked where they should receive breast cancer treatment, I would say Edith Sanford — hands down. There is nowhere else in the world I would trust with my life.

When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer, I felt like I was the only woman in the entire world with such a heavy diagnosis. The truth is one in eight women are diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, and that’s an incredible amount of women who will face the same giant I’ve faced this year.

It can affect anybody. It can affect your mother. It can affect your sister. It can affect your daughter. Breast cancer doesn’t discriminate, and it will come after anybody.

In my heart, I feel like it is incredibly important to support early screening, breast cancer patient care and finding a cure. Edith Sanford wants to get rid of breast cancer entirely, and so do I.

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Posted In Cancer, Cancer Screenings, Cancer Treatments, Foundation

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