In their own words: Jennie Mitchell, 51, of Brewster
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.
Jennie Mitchell was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 after a routine mammogram and eventually underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. The treatments, which she received locally at Davenport-Mugar Cancer Center at Cape Cod Hospital, caused fatigue, weakened nails and hair loss, including her eyelashes and eyebrows.
With the support of her husband, Mitchell, she made it through the year-long treatments.
“Your hair is a major part of your appearance and I didn’t have hair anywhere, not even the fuzzy hairs on my face. So it was uncomfortable and stressful, but my husband and I chose to flip it into a positive,” she says.
“He went on the Internet and researched head coverings for women going through chemotherapy and picked out the most beautiful scarves and wonderfully styled hats. We practiced how to tie them and just accepted that cancer was going to cause these constant adjustments.”
Looking back on her own journey, Mitchell says she is grateful for the “exceptional treatment,” she received. She has found ways to deal with the fear of cancer recurrence by consulting with her local doctors, as well as her family. She said her life has slowly come back around to what she calls “a new normal.”
“There is this quote that helps me put my best foot forward every day,” she says. “‘During this season of inherent winter, I have found my summer.’ That has kept me going, because even though my husband and I have gone through some lousy times fighting this cancer, I know the pain won’t last forever.
“The best thing people can do if they are diagnosed with breast cancer is to create a positive environment and bring the people you love into your fold as much as you can. It’s important to realize that even though the cancer can come back, you can still take control and live. That is my strength and my truth.”