Staying Strong in the Face of Adversity
October is famous for being the month of goblins, ghouls and trick-or-treating. But it is also Breast Cancer Awareness Month. It is a time to remember those we have lost, celebrate those who fight and to educate about early detection.
It is also a chance to remember that this disease affects the daily lives of thousands of women across the country, whether they have been recently diagnosed, have just had a mastectomy or have been cancer-free for many years.
The daily struggles – physical, mental and emotional – are not dissimilar to those faced by our upper & lower limb amputees and those living with physical disabilities. Inner strength is critical, as is having the right support system.
Keep this in mind this month. Stay strong, move forward and never stop believing in yourself.
A reminder that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In addition to participating in several community activities, Hope From Jillian’s will be hosting events at the Waterloo and Mason City office locations.
10/6- Hope From Jillian’s and Radiant Impressions Open House – Waterloo
10/13- Iowa Clinic PT In-service
10/21- ONR Dubuque PT In-service
Help from Jillian’s Events
Hope from Jillian’s was proud to put on a couple of events this month for survivors of breast cancer who have had mastectomies. The Breast Cancer Open House was put on with American Breast Care to help showcase their new products for fall 2015. It was a first chance to order and see new products straight from one of the best vendors for mastectomy products.
Of the 18 women who showed up, 90 percent of them ordered something that day or scheduled a one-on-one fitting time at a later date. We’re very proud and constantly inspired by the work of the Hope from Jillian’s team!
Patient Spotlight: Barbara Grassley
20 Years and Counting
Executive Board Member
Congressional Families for Cancer Awareness
April 29, 1987 – a long time ago and yet, it seems like just yesterday I was walking down the hall on the arm of my anesthesiologist at Schoitz Memorial Hospital in Waterloo, Iowa, on my way to the operating room for a modified radical mastectomy.
Let me back up a bit and start from the beginning. During a health fair in the Russell Rotunda I had a blood test and my cholesterol reading had been a bit high. The counselor at the health fair encouraged me to have a more thorough blood work-up so I made an appointment to see my doctor. I hadn’t had a Pap test for a while so I ended up getting that done, too. It was during that visit that my doctor found a lump in each breast.
I’m not one to sit around and feel sorry for myself so I immediately went to a surgeon for a biopsy. He did an incision biopsy and gently said to me “We’ll send this to the lab for confirmation, but I’ve seen a lot of these and I can tell you it is malignant.” As I recall, he told me the usual choices – a lumpectomy with follow-up chemotherapy and/or radiation or a modified radical mastectomy also with follow-up chemotherapy and/or radiation if necessary.
I was 55 years old, had nursed all my children, and the certainty of radiation and some chemo with a lumpectomy caused me to choose the modified-radical mastectomy (with the outside chance of no chemo or radiation) on the spot. Right then and there I scheduled the surgery for two weeks later, Monday, Apil29, because the following week I was hosting a German parliamentary delegation that was visiting Iowa.
The day I was diagnosed, Chuck was on the road in Iowa. When he called that night, I told him all that had transpired and that I had opted for the mastectomy. He got on the phone with someone from University Hospitals in Iowa City because he wanted to make sure I had all the information I needed to make this choice. So, the next day, my oldest daughter and I went to Iowa City. Basically, they told me the same thing my surgeon had told me. This made me more certain than ever that I had made the right decision for me.
My doctor and I had planned a course of action for one breast, but there was also a lump in the other breast that I can’t forget about. My doctor had decided to do a biopsy on the second lump while I was in surgery. Depending on the results, we would deal with it at a later time.
By this time, I was ready to get it over with. So, as the anesthesiologist and I were strolling down the hall the morning of my surgery, I told him that they were all nice people, BUT if the lump in my other breast was also malignant, I wanted Doc to take that breast, too. Frankly, I told him, “You are all nice guys, but I don’t want to come back here again.” He asked me if I had talked to my surgeon about this revelation and I said no. “Well, you will have to,” he said.
So here I am in that cold operating room in one of those open gowns, sitting on the operating table swinging my legs back and forth to keep warm. Doc comes in wiping his hands and said “What is this young lady?” I told him my decision so they had to get Chuck to sign the papers, just in case.
When I woke up, I still had my other breast because the lump was benign. Best of all, my cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes, so I did not have to have any chemo or radiation. Now even in this situation, it is my understanding the patient is given mild chemo to make sure there indeed are no stray cells hanging around.
Because of the choice I made to have modified radical mastectomy instead of a lumpectomy, I had to make another decision – implants or prosthesis. I chose to wear a prosthesis, which may not be the most popular choice. But, it’s my firm belief that everybody should choose what works best for them. Everybody has their own needs or is at a different stage in their life. My advice is to do what makes you feel comfortable.
I still have a mammogram every year, for good reason, because lo and behold a couple of years ago there was a suspicious spot. I had a1 aspiration biopsy which came back benign.
Quite often, I am asked – how did you feel when you received the diagnosis? There was never any “Why me?” “Why NOT me?”
My mother had a younger sister who had fought the good fight for many years before succumbing to breast cancer. Another younger sister of hers visited me in the hospital and said l0 years earlier she had the exact same diagnosis and surgery, and she was fine. Unfortunately, eight years later her cancer came back in her lungs. she fought another three years before she died. My own mother had her breast removed in February, l988. She was supposed to have chemo and radiation, but did not. Hers went to the bone and she died in 1992.
It’s in the genes. I encourage (they might tell you I nag) my daughters and daughters-in-law to get checked each year.
Twenty years and counting…I take each day as it comes, just thankful I can put both feet on the floor and go about my daily routine. I enjoy my children, grandchildren and the greats, too. I encourage other cancer patients and survivors whenever I can and am so thankful for all the blessings I have been given.
Misconceptions About Amputees- Part 2
This month we continue with our series regarding misconceptions about amputees. As discussed in the September edition, we feel it is important to identify and illustrate common beliefs about amputees that are not correct.
Misconception 2: Amputees can’t bike, swim, dance or do other physical activities anymore.
Returning amputees to the activities they enjoyed prior to amputation is very important to our clinicians. The combination of proper componentry and fit, appropriate physical therapy and a strong determination from the patient all contribute to the scope and level of success in activity participation after limb loss.
We work with scores of amputees who are avid swimmers, golfers, bikers and runners. As amputee Les Corporon said, “ I can do just about anything I put my mind to. In fact, it just comes down to mind over matter; if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!”
Our country got a first-hand look at just how well amputees can perform when celebrity Amy Purdy (amputee snowboarder) participated on the TV show “Dancing with the Stars” in 2014. Her inspiring performances reflect the vast potential for amputees to return to the activities they enjoyed prior to limb loss.
Here are a few Clark & Associates patients staying active with their prosthetic devices.