Alana – Facing your fears


Alana, breast cancer survivor

Despite a family history of breast cancer, 59-year-old Alana let her fear of pain stand in the way of having a mammogram—a fear that almost cost her life. As a result, Alana had to face a greater challenge than a few minutes of discomfort: stage 3 breast cancer.

“I knew something was wrong because one of my nipples had become inverted,” Alana recalls. “So I scheduled a mammogram and prepared myself for whatever outcome the test showed.” Unfortunately, hers showed a mass in her right breast. A biopsy followed the mammogram, and in December 2010, Alana’s suspicions were confirmed—she was officially diagnosed with breast cancer.

“My first thought was ‘oh no, here we go,’” Alana says. “My niece had been diagnosed with breast cancer when she was 28-years-old, and my sister fought it just three years before.”
 It was an emotional time for Alana, but she tried to show the world a stoic face. The nurses, doctors and staff at the cancer center at University of Minnesota Health Maple Grove Clinics provided care and information that comforted her. “Their support made it easier to deal with the difficult dynamics of my situation,” she says.

Alana started the first of four rounds of chemotherapy shortly thereafter. Twice she landed in the hospital for an abnormally high fever, but nine weeks later she was ready for 12 weeks of Taxol, a medication that slows the growth and spread of cancer cells.

Her medical team continued to support her through this stage, as did her sister. Any time she had a question or concern, the nurses would take the time to ease her fears, offer helpful information and provide compassionate care. By May 2011, the tumor had shrunk, and Alana underwent a double mastectomy.

Her treatment ended five months later in October, and today Alana feels great. She’s returned to work full-time, and has a few words of advice for women who avoid mammograms.

“Women need to know that having a mammogram can make a difference and a positive outcome is possible,” she says. “I was afraid of experiencing the pain associated with a mammogram and look where it got me. Now I tell women to put their fears aside and just do it.”

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