Valentine’s Day Gift for Iowa Mom Was Shocking Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Remember that huge, historical event we experienced back in 2020. Never in a million years did I think that I would have a hard time finding toilet paper. I was even scheming different scenarios of how I could get a roll or two because I just had no idea how long the shelves would stay empty. What a weird experience, right?! Well, that is a moment in our past that my mom completely missed. In fact, she never even had a chance to see those empty store shelves. She didn't have COVID. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in February 2020.
This month we have been sharing stories of breast cancer survivors all over Southeast Minnesota. Women who were busy moms and even drove a school bus who had to sit in a hospital room and receive chemo instead.
Although my mom doesn't actually live in Minnesota, she isn't far away and lives in a town near Fort Dodge, Iowa. Her story is unique but just like all the women that I've spoken with, the diagnosis of breast cancer was a shock. Listen to her story below.
JESSICA - Hey, this is Jessica Williams at Townsquare Media and we are talking with breast cancer survivors all month long inviting them to come into the studio and tell their story. And today I have a very special guest. It's actually my mom. So, Mom, why don't you go ahead and introduce yourself and we'll talk about your cancer journey.
JENNIFER - My name is Jennifer Schild and I live in a little town near Fort Dodge, IA.
JESSICA - A town I know very, very well. Before we get into your breast cancer diagnosis and what you had to go through for treatment, what are some of the things that you love that just fill you up with joy?
JENNIFER - I've always liked to read Christian romance novel, so I read every night and I like to play games, like board games and card games. And I like to get together with my friends. I babysit my grandson, who's one, and he gives me joy. He keeps me busy and so I'm not lonely. And I try to go to activities of the grandkids if I can. And I like to be outside too and just enjoy the world outside when it's decent weather.
JESSICA - I remember when you called me and said that you had breast cancer, but why don't you go ahead and revisit that a little bit? What year were you diagnosed?
JENNIFER - In 2020, I was supposed to have Achilles tendon surgery and I had to have a pre surgical physical. And they did a mammogram and found breast cancer. I was shocked because I had no idea and no symptoms, no lump, nothing. So, the mammogram is what detected the breast cancer, Invasive basal carcinoma. And it happened to be Valentine's Day, which was very hard.
JESSICA – Valentine's Day was the day you found out. Once they told you that you had breast cancer, what did they make you do next?
JENNIFER - I had to have a needle biopsy and several mammograms and an ultrasound, and then they said it would be a few days before we knew for sure But they had a feeling that it was (breast cancer) even though one out of five is positive. I was one of the five. And then I had to wait a few days, which was torture, to find out for sure.
Right after Presidents Day I found out that I did have breast cancer. Then they sent me to a surgeon and she scheduled the lumpectomy. Well, first we had an MRI to see exactly where it was and then I had a lumpectomy. In one months time, I had three surgeries, I had Achilles tendon surgery, a lumpectomy and then two weeks later, the Doctor wanted to go back and get a little more of the cancer so I had to go back into the hospital for the third surgery, but it was not in the lymph nodes. They classified the breast cancer as stage 1A, or stage one. I had to wait a little while before I would started radiation.
JESSICA - You didn't have chemo, right? Just radiation.
JENNIFER - I never had to have chemotherapy, Just 16 days of radiation. I also had to go To lymphedema, which is where they help you with your scar tissue and things like that. And that hurt.
JESSICA - I joke around with you a little bit because when you had to have radiation you also had to have something else done to prepare yourself for it or to prepare the area of radiation. Do you know what I'm talking about?
JENNIFER - Ohh yeah.
JESSICA - And now you have more of something than what I have. What is that?
JENNIFER - I have 6 little dot tattoos. That really hurt. They're on my back and different places and I don't know if you know this, but I got called back because the radiation doctor wasn't happy with them so he made him do it again. They said that this type of tattoo is more painful than a real tattoo, so I guess maybe it is. It must be a different kind of needle or something.
JESSICA - For somebody who is going to get a mammogram for the first time, or maybe they're just scared and so they're not scheduling it, what would you tell somebody?
JENNIFER - Get a mammogram. Oh my goodness, they have 3D mammograms. A lot of people know that they have a lump or something. I did not. I mean, if I hadn't had the pre physical for the surgery, it would have probably been a whole year and then maybe the cancer would have been stage 2, I don't know.
JESSICA – What words of advice would you have for a person who just heard the words “breast cancer” for the first time?
JENNIFER - Well, you want to cry. And I did, but I decided that I needed to go and find out what I needed to do and do what the doctor said. Don't just forget about it. I mean, the longer you wait, the more advanced it becomes. They'll tell you to get an MRI and then they'll decide if you need a lumpectomy or whatever. Absolutely do what the doctor tells you. And if you need a second opinion, go get a second opinion.
JESSICA - You were diagnosed in February of 2020. You had your surgeries and then after you were recovering at home, our world had a little shift. I would call you and make sure that you had toilet paper because the world was literally just crumbling and falling apart and no one could find toilet paper. At one point you were like, “why do you keep asking me if I have toilet paper?” and I told you it was because there is none. The stores were empty. The shelves were completely empty. You never experienced any of that and I really wish I would have taken videos so you could have experienced it because it was definitely something I hope I never see again. But you missed it.
JENNIFER - I never went in a store, probably for six weeks, just to radiation and plus, you know, I kind of needed to stay away from people too because of COVID.
JESSICA - If you went to a store, you wouldn't have been able to buy anything anyway since there was nothing there, so it’s fine.
Let's talk about mammograms for just a second. On a scale of 1 to 10, one being 0 pain whatsoever, 10 like the worst pain in the world. How would you rate mammogram?
JENNIFER - Probably a 7.
JESSICA - Ohh really? You think it's that high?
JENNIFER - Can I explain? When I had my first mammogram years ago, the person had a phone call and they left me in that machine for what seemed like 5 minutes, but it was probably a minute. So then I'm saying 7 because I was clamped in there. I couldn't go anywhere. That very first time it was it was a 7 because she left me.
JESSICA - (laughing) It's not funny, but it is funny.
JENNIFER – It wasn’t really, she took a phone call! She did return, which was really good.
JESSICA – Thanks, Mom – I appreciate you talking with me and we actually have a couple other individuals from right here in southeast Minnesota who have shared their breast cancer survivor stories. You can check those out right now on our free app. It's all powered by Mosaic Chrysler.
Townsquare Media cares about our community. We are sharing the stories of breast cancer survivors all month and you can find those and other helpful resources on our station app all powered by Mosaic Chrysler in Zumbrota, Beyond sales, it's service.