By all accounts, Jeanine Meese is the picture perfect wife, mom, and friend to many. She loves life, following her kids in their many different avenues, and supporting her husband in his job as administrator at Jackson Hospital. What could possibly happen to someone who was healthy, practiced good nutrition, exercised regularly, and had regularly scheduled medical checkups. The “C” word knows no boundaries as Jeanine Meese found out on December 23, 2013.
In early November, 2012 Jeanine was invited to attend the breast cancer symposium.
“I was invited to this breast cancer symposium. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really see a reason to go. I was 43. I have low blood pressure and perfect cholesterol. I was near my ideal weight give or take those few extra pounds I blame on water. I exercised four-to-five days a week and had been a runner for 30 years. Dr. Leff performs thorough breast exams at my annual appointments, and there is no family history of breast cancer, so I never saw the need to do any more than that. Bottom line, I was healthy.”
After some thought, Jeanine opted to attend the symposium, “I decided to attend anyway to support my friends who worked so hard to put the event on, to show support for the friends I have who are breast cancer survivors and fighters, and to represent my husband and Jackson Hospital. I listened to the speakers. They were great, and I certainly learned a lot. But still, it didn’t hit home. I was removed from the disease. They gave out these “beads of hope” key chains and explained what each bead represented. Nice take away! Two people even gave me theirs because they already had some, so I had a few extras for family members.”
Then came what no woman wants to ever experience, “Fast forward two months. On December 23rd, I was in the shower. Holy crap, what is that? It is small, hard, and wasn’t there before. And it felt like one of those beads. Now, I am used to having fibrocystic lumps, which are painful, and come and go with your hormone levels and caffeine intake. But THIS was different. This felt just like a small marble. On Dec 26th, I saw my ARNP, Anna Brunner, and was at Jackson Hospital for a mammogram an hour later. It showed nothing. Phew! The ultrasound showed nothing of significance; the lump was dubbed as something benign. Okay, great! Dr. Goodpaster decided to perform a surgical biopsy anyway even though all who saw the films agreed it was probably nothing. If I remember correctly, she chose to biopsy it because of the shape and hardness, and mostly, because it wasn’t there before. She delivered the diagnosis to us on January 9th, which also happened to be Connie Haile’s birthday.
I was very lucky. Although it was an invasive ductal carcinoma, I detected it early. I was blessed with good medical care. I had the surgery and treatments and now am on the required pills for five to ten years. While I try so hard to make it through each day with a positive attitude and a smile, only those who have ever heard THAT word understand, that with every ache, cough, bruise, or change, you begin to worry – is it cancer? Is it back? Has it spread? And these worries keep going – what will my kids do without me? What about my husband? There’s so much we still have to do together as a family.
Throughout this experience, I was surprised, however, to find out that cancer and pregnancy have something in common. Remember when you were pregnant, how every woman wanted to tell you her horror delivery story? Well, guess what? The same goes for cancer patients. Even though my doctors believe they got it all, and I try to be at peace with it, people want to tell me stories of how someone they know had surgery, treatment, and was cured too. But then, the cancer came back, but it was worse this time, and then they died. Really people? That isn’t helpful to your friends with cancer. That’s making it worse. Keep your kind words flowing, your prayers coming, show you care, even if you don’t understand, but be sensitive! Keep your horror stories to yourself please. Let us try and get through every day with the belief that we have cancer, but cancer DOESN’T have us.”
The beads Jeanine received at her first symposium remain with her daily, “I continue to carry my beads. They are pretty worn, and they have long since fallen off the key chain, but I continue to use them often as a visual aid while telling people to check themselves and what to look for. I even have two more friends who found their breast cancer thanks to these beads of hope.”
Jeanine closes by offering this advice, “So, remember: It can happen to anyone, at any time, regardless of family history or good health. Perform your exam tonight. Do it monthly. Save your life with early detection. Because no one is exempt. Thank you.”
The fight is real, the cure is in early detection.