Breast cancer survivor tells her story
Sioux City, Iowa (KTIV) – Sunday, June 6 was National Cancer Survivor Day, a day to mark a victory in the fight against cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, estimated numbers for 2021 indicate 1.9 million new cancer cases and 68,570 cancer deaths in the United States.
In Iowa, estimates indicate that we could see 20,000 new cancer diagnoses this year. In Nebraska, it’s 11,180. In South Dakota, it’s 5,330.
However, there is some promising news in the fight against the disease. According to the American Cancer Society, the five-year relative survival rate has improved dramatically, from 39% in the 1960s to 68% among Caucasians today, and from 27% in the 1960s to 63%. among African Americans today.
In 2017, breast cancer survivor Melissa Jensen was 37 when she first noticed a lump in one of her breasts, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month and four days before her 38th birthday . The cancer diagnosis was a shock, but she was determined to beat it.
KTIV caught up with her in 2018, after her double mastectomy.
Melissa had to undergo four rounds of chemo, surgery, four more rounds of chemo and hormone therapy. She says there were days when she didn’t have a lot of energy, but most of the time her cancer treatment didn’t stop her from living. She wasn’t a fan of her bald head, but said she tried to maintain as normal a life as possible, even when her hair was falling out. His family and friends were his driving force to get better.
We visited Melissa at her home last week. She is happy to announce that her chemotherapy port has been taken off, and along with two more health vouchers every six months, she will have an annual check-up. It is definitely progress.
Board games are the favorites of Melissa, Raegan and Chase Jensen. And the children gladly help their mothers with household chores. But in recent years, Melissa has worked hard to beat her cancer and get better so that she can truly enjoy the good times with her family.
“I’m still a little emotional because it’s one of those things where they’re at an age where you worry about what you’re going to miss. And are you going to mess them up if you’re not there,” Breast cancer survivor Melissa Jensen said.
Raegan was 8 and Chase 6 when Melissa was first diagnosed, but even though they were young they knew Mom was going through something serious. When Melissa’s hair started to fall out, Chase wanted her mom to put it back on her head.
“Oh, that was so terrifying. I cried like a baby. Oh. I cried, like I could flood the house when I cried,” said Chase Jensen Jr..
Now that Melissa takes exams every six months, the next step in her journey as a cancer survivor is to get to the annual exams and be there for others who walk in similar shoes.
“I want to put that behind me, but at the same time I want to give back, like I want to be there for others and listen to others and listen to what they’re going through and just be a sounding board,” Jensen said.
She doesn’t want to take anything for granted. Even though she was going through one of the most difficult stages of her journey, ringing the bell signifying the end of her treatment at June E. Nylen Cancer Center did not seem like the right thing to do.
“I didn’t ring the bell when I left. I felt guilty because there are still people fighting this. I didn’t mean to say I was done,” Jensen said.
Seeing her children thrive in school and in their activities, spending time with friends and family, and knowing that she hasn’t let cancer take control is part of her badge of survivor courage.
Melissa is back at work enjoying the activities her children are participating in. She says her support system is strong. This aid included a patient advocate from the cancer center. Although she was initially reluctant to do this interview, Chase, her son, recommended that she share her journey to help others.