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Cancer Survivor Urges Women to do Breast Self-Exams Every Month

October 09, 2012

Washington Women's Center Support Group Offers Her Comfort and Camaraderie

When Jayne Glenn felt the lump in her breast, she knew it was cancer. Diligent about doing monthly breast self-exams, she had skipped a month. She remembers the date clearly - March 21, 2008. In just two months, the lump had grown to the size of a golf ball.

"I knew something that big had to be cancer," she said. "I had a biopsy done and when the doctor called me to come in for the results, I thought 'why bother, I know what you're going to say.'"

While she resigned herself to the diagnosis, she wasn't fatalistic about the outcome. She stayed positive all the way, which she believes makes a big difference in the recovery.

"I think attitude plays a big role," she said. "I wanted to do everything possible to beat it and I tried not to let it get me down."

While Jayne was prepared to have her breast surgically removed through a mastectomy, her doctor prescribed a lumpectomy, where only the lump is removed. She signed consent forms for both procedures because she wanted the surgeon to do whatever was necessary to get rid of the cancer. It turned out the lumpectomy along with chemotherapy and radiation worked. She has been cancer-free for four years.

"The chemotherapy wasn't as bad as I thought it would be," she said. "I did have fatigue and bone pain, but it wasn't anything I couldn't handle."

When her hair started falling out, she asked her son-in-law to shave it off for her.

"He shaved my grandsons' hair, so I decided to let him do mine and just get rid of it all at once," Jayne explained. "My grandsons were 3 and 5 at the time, so I had them watch me get my hair cut. I didn't want to just show up one day without hair. So I figured it would be less of a shock if they participated. I'm glad I did it that way."

She had good success with the radiation treatments as well, other than some minor burns, which is common with radiation.

"I feel very fortunate that everything went so well," she said. "I did fine with the treatments and the breast cancer support group was the best thing that happened to me."

Support for Life

The Washington Women's Center offers the breast cancer support group every month, which is open to anyone who has been touched by breast cancer, including those who have it as well as their family, friends, and caregivers.

"It was so nice to be able to go to the meetings and talk to other women who knew what I was going through," Jayne said. "I would highly recommend it. You can ask how they handled something and what they did about certain issues. You really have to keep your spirits up and look on the positive side, and talking with others who understand really helps."

Each month the meeting hosts a guest speaker who addresses a relevant topic like eating a healthy diet, massage therapy, and how to read a lab report. The rest of the time is devoted to group discussion where participants are encouraged to share their challenges and successes.

Jayne still attends the meetings and has made some good friends for life there. Now she offers guidance and support to others who are newly diagnosed.

She is grateful for her current good health. She and her husband are retired and enjoying an active life that includes four grandchildren. They go to the gym regularly and take long walks together. Jayne is also involved in local efforts to raise awareness about breast cancer, including the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life, which she has participated in for the last three years.

She attends Washington Hospital's Think Pink every year, a lively event that offers a wide range of information about breast cancer. This year Think Pink is scheduled for October 16 in the tent atrium at Washington West from 5 to 7:30 p.m. There will be free health screenings and demonstrations as well as information about the latest advances in the detection and treatment of breast cancer.

"I tell every woman who will listen to examine her breasts every month," Jayne said. "If you do get cancer, get support. It really helps to talk to other women who have been through it. I can't say enough about the support group."

The breast cancer support group meets the first Thursday of every month, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. There is no cost to attend any everyone is welcome. The support group meets in the Women's Center Conference Room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. For more information, call (510) 608-3204.

To learn about other services offered at the Washington Women's Center, visit www.whhs.com/womenscenter.