Going to Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center was a great decision
Most women hear how important it is to have an annual mammogram and to check their own breasts on a regular basis. Jill Shump didn’t know it at the time, but knowing herself and her body saved her life.
At age 46, Jill noticed her right breast felt different than the left after she had a routine mammogram at the Mary Coleman Women’s Center. She felt relief when the screening came back normal. However, a few months later, she felt a slight pain in her right breast and just knew something was wrong. She called her primary care doctor who scheduled Jill for an ultrasound to get a different view through her dense breast tissue. The ultrasound detected a lump and Jill was sent to have a biopsy taken by Dr. Kerri Murray of Bronson General Surgery – Battle Creek.
On January 15, 2013, Jill heard the worst words a doctor could say to her: “You have cancer.”
“I had to calm down before I could tell my family. I told my three children, husband, mother and sent out a Facebook message to my close family and friends.” Jill’s next step was to meet with a doctor at Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center to understand her diagnosis and care plan.
She learned that her biopsy results indicated the cancer was triple negative, which meant hormonal therapy wouldn’t work.
In many cases with a triple negative diagnosis, a combination of treatment is required including surgery, chemotherapy and potentially radiation. It was a lot to process, but it was the best way for Jill to stay one step ahead of the cancer.
Jill met with Dr. Randy Mudge at The Cancer Care Center. He supported the full combination of treatment. Due to the aggressive nature of triple negative cancer, Jill made the decision to have a bi-lateral mastectomy (removal of both breasts), followed by chemotherapy and then radiation.
Susan Swank, nurse navigator at The Cancer Care Center, helped Jill through every stage of treatment. She was there to educate, advocate and simply be a friend. Jill appreciated that and says, “Sue saves everybody’s life every day. Every time we fall apart, we call Sue.”“It’s all pretty scary and intimidating and it’s hard to get your bearings,” Jill remembers when making the decision to move forward with treatment. She knew she would lose her hair during chemo. “I tried to embrace it because I knew it would happen – but it was hard. When I finally chose to shave my head, my 6-year-old son told me he would hold my hand so I wouldn’t be afraid.”
Jill also attended support groups at The Cancer Care Center. She described how much strength it gave her in the beginning. Talking to other women gave her the courage to do things like take her hat off at work and walk around bald. Jill even took a trip to Disney World with her husband and son when she had a small gap of time between the end of chemo and start of radiation.
During radiation, Jill was yet again impressed with the support she received from the staff. “They were all so nice. The radiation would cause a sort of sunburn. The nurses would recommend lotions and give me samples. I was always in and out in less than 20 minutes. It all went very quick after the initial setup.”
“People told me I was an inspiration,” Jill said, “which was touching.” She also said laughter helped her get through her experience. “I have a lot of boob jokes now. And I get a kick out of it when somebody is not expecting me to say something and I say it.” Her best advice to others going through cancer treatment is to take advantage of the support and accept help when offered. She also said if you have questions to ask them, and make sure you understand the answer.
“Today, I certainly have more empathy for a lady walking around with a scarf on her head. My priorities changed too. I spend more time with my family and less time working.”
After nearly a year of going to The Cancer Care Center for treatments, she emerged cancer free and thankful for the care she received.
“The staff at The Cancer Care Center is amazing; I don’t know how they do their jobs every day. It was a very warm atmosphere.”
Learn more about Jill’s story and Bronson Battle Creek Cancer Care Center at bronsonpositivity.com/cancer.