How breast cancer changes a life

Maureen Anderson, 35, of Island Lake looks out the window in the Centegra Breast Center’s waiting room in Crystal Lake. Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, about a month before her wedding.
Maureen Anderson, 35, of Island Lake looks out the window in the Centegra Breast Center’s waiting room in Crystal Lake. Anderson was diagnosed with breast cancer in June, about a month before her wedding.

ISLAND LAKE – Like most brides-to-be one month before their big day, Maureen Anderson was consumed with last-minute details.

Up to her neck in planning her wedding, the last thing she expected was to be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I spent all of the month of June both planning the wedding and making doctor’s visits,” the 35-year-old Island Lake resident said. “It was kind of bittersweet because I was so excited for the wedding day, but I knew I’d have to go in for treatments when it was over.”

Diagnosed with stage-2 breast cancer at the Centegra Gavers Breast Center in Crystal Lake, her doctors told her that she could get married, but chemotherapy treatments would have to begin immediately after with radiation treatments to follow. Some of her lymph nodes also were removed.

Even after discovering the lump herself and having a biopsy done, Anderson said, she never thought she would get the news she did because of her age.

“I had found the lump myself just randomly, and I thought, ‘That’s weird,’ ” she said. “Really the last thing on my mind was that it was breast cancer. When I had the biopsy, I
really wasn’t even worried. For the first couple of weeks, it was more a little bit of shock – like do I really have cancer?”

With chemotherapy treatments administered every three weeks, the first seven to 10 days after treatments “are really the roughest days,” she said.

That’s when her new husband, Bob, is most encouraging.

“He takes more the coaching approach to cancer,” Anderson said, explaining that her husband is a teacher and football coach at Round Lake High School. “He tells me, ‘You’re tough, you’ll get through this.’”

A special education teacher at Grant Community High School in Fox Lake, Anderson took the semester off work to get through her chemo treatments but plans to return to work for the second semester.

In the meantime, Anderson said, she is doing everything she can to stay positive and keep busy.

“I tried to research things, like what I can do for myself – how I can stay active,” she said. “What kinds of things can I find to keep me active and keep my mind off of it? I go to the gym every day. I really just keep pushing myself.”

Getting out of the house and being with other people is the best advice Anderson said she has for women dealing with breast cancer and going through treatments.

“Don’t isolate yourself,” she said. “Try the best you can to keep on with your life, with your family and friends. What I always say is it’s going to be over – it’s not going to be like this forever.”

If it’s simply going to the grocery store, she said, find something to do that gets you out each day.

“Even if I can just run errands – just to keep seeing people. It’s not good to isolate yourself,” she said. “You have to find things to look forward to.”

Through the Chemo Angels volunteer organization, Anderson receives cards and letters from people supporting her through her treatments.

Every bit of support helps her, she said.

When her radiation treatments are over, Anderson said, she and her husband will make up for missing their honeymoon.

Her first choice is Bora Bora, she said.

“I always tell him as soon as we’re done with this we’re going on an awesome honeymoon,’’ Anderson said.

National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

The National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is a collaboration of national public service organizations, professional medical associations and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to services.

The observance began 25 years ago to promote awareness of breast cancer issues and to begin a national dialogue about breast cancer.

To learn more, visit www.nbcam.org.

• • •

Breast cancer statistics

Not counting some kinds of skin cancer, breast cancer in the United States is:

• The most common cancer in women, no matter the race or ethnicity.

• The most common cause of death from cancer among Hispanic women.

• The second most common cause of death from cancer among white, black, Asian/Pacific Islander, and American Indian/Alaska Native women.

In 2008 (the most recent year numbers are available):

• 210,203 women were diagnosed with breast cancer.

• 40,589 women died from breast cancer.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

• • •

Breast cancer prevention tips

You can help to lower the risk of breast cancer in the following ways:

• Get screened for breast cancer regularly.

• Control your weight and exercise.

• Know your family history of breast cancer.

• Find out the risks and benefits of hormone replacement therapy.

• Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

• • •

Extra support

To learn more about Chemo Angels, visit www.chemoangels.net.

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