I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor: Dawn Berry

In March 2005, I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer on my left breast. I had found the lump and went in for a mammogram, an ultrasound, then a biopsy. I was sitting in the hospital room with my boyfriend. I knew it was cancer. It was in my family. I was trying to read the doctor’s face when he took a deep breath, put my chart on the counter and said, “I’m sorry, Dawn, you’re positive for breast cancer.” I pulled at my long hair, then put my face in my hands. I looked up and asked, “Now what?” I didn’t know much about cancer treatment and I didn’t have time for that in my life.

I had a lumpectomy and chemotherapy followed by radiation. It was a long and hard road. I lost my hair and even lost a toenail. My health and lifestyle changed. I was sad, mad, sick and tired. I had some family in Reno with me, yet I felt so alone and scared. I was the strong one who held the family together. My family didn’t know what to do, but tried their best to do it all. I learned from their support—it gave me inner strength and a new perspective on life.

Six years later, at 37 years old with two boys, ages 3 and 18, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on my right breast. I again found the lump myself. I went in for an ultrasound-guided biopsy. Western Pathology waited until my procedure was done to get the specimen in right away for testing. The next afternoon I was having a BBQ with friends and family when the doctor called and said I had cancer. That evening I told my family. My older brother was angry that I was getting this done to me again.

I had a double mastectomy and chemotherapy treatment done within the year. I even worked during my treatment. Again, I lost my hair, but was able to donate 21 inches. My insurance covered a genetic test, which showed I was positive for BRCA1. Unlike the first time, the second time I had a nurse navigator, Bobbie Gillis, and she taught me so much. The unknown and the side effects are usually the worst part of treatment. The second time going through was even worse since I also had to cope with losing my older brother Rick in a motorcycle accident.

Since being diagnosed, losing my father to lung cancer, my mother and aunt being breast cancer survivors and my cousin being a two-time breast cancer survivor, I have a passion to fight for a cure, and raise money and awareness. I work at Renown Oncology Medical Group with a female oncologist. Doing this has made my passion grow and I want to be a breast cancer patient advocate for Reno/Sparks, which is why I love being part of Susan G. Komen. Sharing my story and the feedback I get from the care I give to my patients has made me understand that this is truly what makes me happy; it is my calling and my passion for life and my career.

Story by Pypeline Editing

dawn berry pic

Dawn Berry, 2 months after treatment, with her granddaughter.