Conquering cancer

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By Jessica Sly, Communications Specialist

 

In October of last year, at the age of 44, Stephanie Sellin saw and felt a lump in her breast. She went to Tri-County Health Care straight away for a mammogram. The findings prompted further testing.

In November, David Kloss, M.D., FACS, performed a minimally invasive breast biopsy. A couple days later, the hospital called and told Stephanie the news. It was positive for cancer.

“I kind of had a feeling,” Stephanie said. “There’s no history in my family, so it was kind of a shock. There were no symptoms. I didn’t feel sick.”Cancer patient, Stephanie, with her husband.

Stephanie’s husband, DJ, stepped confidently into the role of her support system, keeping her spirits up, providing refreshing laughter and giving her a familiar hand to hold. Stephanie noted that their three children, Madisyn, Rachel and Alex, were scared at first but that they handled the situation well.

As Stephanie faced her diagnosis, she tried to cope with the reality that she may have passed the breast cancer gene on to her girls.

“Right away, it was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve cursed them,’” Stephanie said. “That was probably one of the hardest parts. I didn’t really think about me. It was more, what about my girls?”

Stephanie went in for genetic testing with her oncologist at TCHC, Wade Swenson, M.D., and much to her relief, she found that it wasn’t hereditary.

Cancer patient, Stephanie Sellin,, receiving chemo treatment.With that question cleared, Stephanie underwent a lumpectomy to remove the cancer and then had one more test to determine if she needed chemotherapy. The results indicated her recurrence rate might be higher, so under Dr. Swenson’s care, Stephanie began chemotherapy. She needed four treatments, each spaced three weeks apart.

Displaying an unwavering positive attitude, Stephanie faced the treatment head-on, reveling in the family-like atmosphere at TCHC and the compassionate nurses who gave her heartfelt care.

“Everybody’s awesome, fun, and makes jokes, and it’s not serious,” she said. “We’re laughing and joking and having fun. It feels like everybody’s family. I love it.”

During chemo, however, one of Stephanie’s struggles was saying goodbye to her long hair.

“That was one of the hard parts,” she said. “My hair was down to my butt, and it was really curly. I cried once and then said, ‘Let’s just cut it.’”

Stephanie eased into the transition with a few haircuts. To start, she styled her hair into three braids and let each of her kids cut one off to keep. Then she went to a hairdresser to get it cut further. Once she started chemo, she decided to buzz it all off at home. Her husband also shaved his head.Cancer patient, Stephanie, holds hands with husband, DJ.

“We couldn’t talk any of the kids into it,” she said with a laugh.

Patients of TCHC cancer care receive free wig fittings and wigs in Fergus Falls. Stephanie selected a wig and purchased an assortment of cute hats, but she soon grew accustomed to going without.

Stephanie completed chemotherapy on March 20, the day before her wedding anniversary, so she and DJ celebrated with a special day out.

Following chemo, she began radiation treatment with Dr. Swenson in Fergus Falls every day for four weeks. She completed radiation on May 22.

The experience opened Stephanie’s eyes to the importance of family, finding laughter in the face of adversity, and being proactive with health screenings.

“(Women should) make sure they get their mammograms and find cancer early,” Stephanie urged. “It is very important. It is treatable.”

 

For more information about TCHC’s cancer care program, call 218-631-7461 or visit TCHC.org/cancercare.


Mammogram Parties – A party with the potential to save a life

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By: Shannon Brauch, RN, Tri-County Health Care Women’s Health Coordinator

Every year, cancer claims the lives of more than a quarter of a million women in America. Breast cancer is the most common cause of cancer and the second most common cause of cancer deaths in American women.

As the leaves turn color and we approach fall, I like to take this opportunity to remind women that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and to highlight the warning signs of breast cancer. The warning signs that should alert a woman to visit with their primary care provider include:

  • Lump, hard knot or thickening inside the breast or underarm area;
  • Swelling, warmth, redness or darkening of the breast;
  • Change in size or shape of breast;
  • Dimpling or puckering of skin;
  • Itchy, scaly sore or rash on the nipple;
  • Pulling in of your nipple or other parts of breast;
  • Nipple discharge that starts suddenly;
  • New pain in one spot that does not go away;

About one in eight women will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime, with 85 percent of breast cancer occurring in women with no family history of breast cancer. Because family history is not a reliable indicator, the American Cancer Society recommends that annual mammograms should begin at the age of 40 and continue for as long as a woman is in good health. Mammograms are the best way to find cancer early, even before it can be felt and when it is easier to treat. Some women, because of their family history, genetic tendency or other factors, should talk to their provider about the need for additional tests at an earlier age.

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Cancer is a scary word and sadly the fear surrounding cancer can keep people from scheduling a life-saving appointment. Research shows that by visiting your medical provider and scheduling a cancer screening test you could greatly improve your odds of survival. Screening tests can detect certain cancers early, when they are the most likely to be curable. Knowing the benefits, it’s alarming that less than 51% of women ages 40 and older reported having a mammogram in the last year. And, recent studies suggest that women are getting their first mammogram later than recommended, not having them at recommended intervals or not receiving appropriate and timely follow-up of positive screening results.

At Tri-County Health Care, we value mammograms and want to make them a little less intimidating for women. In October, we are hosting six Mammogram Parties, each designed to help minimize fear and anxiety for women.

Mammo Party 2015 FB Ad

Women age 40 and older are invited to a Mammogram Party and are welcome to bring their friends, co-workers, family and of course “the girls” for a festive and party-life environment. While at the party women will enjoy massages, margaritas, munchies, and of course, receive their mammogram. There will also be neck and shoulder massages; bra fittings; hand massages/reflexology and representatives from Mary Kay and Healthy Living Oils. Each party can accommodate up to 12 people and the Tri-County Caring Heart Boutique Gift Shop will stay open later to allow the women some time to shop if they choose.

The parties will be held Thursday evenings in October (1, 8, 22) from 5-8 p.m. and Saturday morning, October 10, from 9 a.m. – noon.

Registering for a Mammogram Party is as simple as calling 218-631-7466. Call soon as space is limited to 12 women per party.

Cancer screenings can be very scary. We hope these mammogram parties minimize anxiety and encourage women to get their screening in a safe and fun environment.