The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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October 4, 2012

Breast cancer survivor: Make sure to get your yearly checkups

PRESTON — Editor’s Note: Today, the Clinton Herald begins a four-part series to observe National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The series will be published each Thursday throughout the month of October.

Sandra Dusil knows firsthand the importance of early detection when it comes to breast cancer.

Sandra did not spend weeks sick from chemotherapy. She never wore a hat to cover a bald head. Due to early detection, her cancer was removed before it spread farther.

“I sort of feel like I cheated cancer because I didn't have to do all the chemo and radiation,” Sandra, 62, of Preston said. “I feel very, very fortunate that it went as easily as it did.”

Sandra went to Genesis in DeWitt in June 2009 for her regular mammogram. At first, she was not overly concerned when she received a call to come in for another mammogram.

“When I got that phone call, I just thought 'Oh well, they didn't get a good picture' and didn't really think too much,” Sandra said.

When she went back in July, they saw something on the mammogram. She went to the breast center in August and a suspicious spot was found on her left breast. A biopsy revealed it to be breast cancer. She met with the surgeon in September 2009 and scheduled a lumpectomy for the first week in October.

On the Monday before her scheduled surgery, Sandra received a call from her doctor. An MRI revealed another spot. She went back to the breast center for a biopsy, but while there, the staff was unable to locate the spot. Sandra remembers how scary and confusing that day was.

“Before I left that day, I felt kind of confused, not knowing what all was going on,” Sandra said.

Eventually another MRI was taken that allowed her doctor to perform a biopsy, which revealed the spot to be “ductal carcinoma in situ” breast cancer as well. Sandra learned because the spot was up against the chest wall, she could not have a lumpectomy.

The day before her 60th birthday when she had planned to be out of the state celebrating with friends, Sandra was instead on a surgery table getting a mastectomy. All of the cancer was removed and an expander implant was placed in her chest. In April she had reconstructive surgery.

During this whole experience, Sandra’s friends and family showed her support. Her husband, Roger, took care of her while she recovered. Sandra said he was a good nurse.

Sandra’s friends and co-workers also offered great support. She worked in Clinton County’s Clerk of District Court’s office for 30 years. As she was dealing with breast cancer, her friend and co-worker Cindi Lind had experienced breast cancer as well. Sandra said Lind and another friend, Lisa Fox, really helped her get through the ordeal.

“I sometimes think that I don't know if I would have been as strong as Cindy (Lind) was,” Sandra said.

After having cancer, Sandra has taken more time to pamper herself. She gets massages twice a month. She said that is her little treat

This experience taught Sandra the importance of early detection. In 2010 she was diagnosed with early uterine cancer. She had a complete hysterectomy and once again she did not require chemotherapy or radiation.

“I just think it's something that you need to stay on top of — your yearly exams. Because if you can catch it soon enough it makes a big difference in what you have to go through,” Sandra said.

Sandra considers breast cancer awareness to be very important. She has participated in both Clinton and Jackson County Relay for Life events. For the past two years, she and her husband have helped prepare luminarias and stamped bags for the Jackson County event.

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