I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor: Debbi Engebritson

I’m a Breast Cancer Survivor: Debbi Engebritson
By Pypeline Editing

I was at work when they called to tell me it was definite—I had breast cancer. It was two days before Christmas. I had an unusual mammogram and I needed a needle biopsy, so I wasn’t too surprised. When I went home that evening I only told my husband and my mom, then I asked them to keep it a secret until after the holidays.

I was lucky. Fortunately, the lymph nodes were not involved so I had a minimally invasive surgery to remove the cancerous cells. After that, my next step was to go to an oncologist to get my continuing treatment plan. Chemotherapy was not recommended and I was able to keep my hair! The treatment plan from there was radiation five times a week for eight weeks, along with medication. I began the pills immediately and later the radiation treatment. Each treatment involved a CT-scan each day and then, in the same tube, I had to lie still for the 15 minutes that the lasers were working. It doesn’t sound like a long time, but it sure gave my brain plenty of “what if” moments and all I could think about was how crazy radiation was. People of Japan tried to avoid the radiation following the tsunami, and here I was laying purposely-getting radiation applied to my body. I only had some minor skin irritations and was able to sneak over on my lunch hour each day to get my treatments so I didn’t miss any work, and very few people knew what I was doing.

The treatment was not without minor complications; I developed blood clots from one medication and had to change to another and I was forced to change oncologists three times due to insurance and retirement. I am still getting a monthly capsule injected under my skin and the side effects seem to be few. I had amazing support from my husband and my mom, not to mention the few friends I told.

I have been a survivor now for three years and five months. While I was in care at Renown, there were several agencies that provided support. I even had people call me after my surgery to see if I needed someone to talk to or ask questions—Susan G. Komen was one of them. It was very comforting to have that kind of care. My main recommendation, get your yearly mammogram! If, by chance, you are diagnosed with cancer, immediately reach out to someone who has been through it personally. Having that connection with someone one-on-one is huge. The Internet can be informative, but it can also be very frightening. It’s like logging into WebMD when you have a cold, so be careful.

 Debbie E pic

Photo Credit: Debbi Engebritson