In their own words: Janet Russell, 53, of Dennis
Even when women are told their breast cancer is in remission, for many the fight continues.
One in eight women in the United States will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of their lives, according to Breastcancer.org. Today, there are tools that can help them cope with the diagnosis, the treatment and the journey that follows.
Locally, many women turn to the survivorship program at Cape Cod Healthcare Oncology Services. The program offers counseling and long-term support services. Here is one women’s story:
Janet Russell was diagnosed with breast cancer, specifically invasive ductile carcinoma, at age 40. She underwent aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatments, which seemed to work well.
Just 18 months later, Russell was out with friends and tripped and fell, breaking her arm and exposing a tumor in her bone. Her doctors gave her the heartbreaking news: Her cancer was indeed back—and stronger than ever.
Today, Russell remains in treatment. And while she continues to stay positive and hopeful about the future, she wants others to understand the risks that come with the ongoing journey of living with cancer—not just during treatment, but for a lifetime.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to this disease. It attacks women of all ages and even if you beat it once there is always this nagging feeling of fear in the back of your mind that it will come back,” Russell said. “Even when we are told we are out of the woods, the fight against cancer is ongoing.”
Russell is combating multiple problems associated with the radiation treatments that help her fight metastatic cancer. Because the treatments are so aggressive, it has led to necrosis, which has caused her bones to weaken and become brittle, and at one point limited her arm to only a 7 percent range of motion.
She also continues to take Herceptin, an oral medication that can cause nausea, vomiting and weight loss. Despite the struggles, she taught herself to write and sketch with her left hand so she could continue to work as an interior designer. She said it was far from easy, but her determination and will was stronger than her body’s limitations.
“It’s amazing how your will to continue can be. I was running a local kitchen and bath remodeling showroom and even though there have been setbacks, I never stopped working and I’ve been stable for eight years,” Russell said.
“I still go for chemotherapy treatments every three weeks but I don’t allow myself to dwell on that. I consistently stop and think of positive things and believe in my strength. Encouraging words from family, friends and co-workers makes me feel successful. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow, but I don’t let cancer control me.”