Barbara Anderson, 62, of Preston, has survived two battles with breast cancer.
Barb has lived in Preston for 35 years. She and her husband, Ken, operate Anderson Pharmacy in the town. They have two daughters, Jennifer Lane, 36 and Wendy Aanonson, 34.
In 1997, Barb felt a lump in her left breast that was painful. She went to her doctor and was in surgery within the week. She had a mastectomy on her left breast.
Unfortunately, the doctor did not remove any lymph nodes, so they did not know if the cancer was in the lymph nodes or not. At that time, Medical Associates did not have on oncologist, but University of Iowa sent oncologists to Clinton a couple of times a week. In July 1997, oncologist Dr. Anoop Aggarwal started at Medical Associates and insisted Barb have her lymph nodes removed in Iowa City.
Barb had started chemotherapy at the end of May 1997, three days after Jennifer’s wedding.
Her chemotherapy was delayed because her blood count was too low and then by the surgery. The lymph nodes did not have any cancer. However, since she had taken chemotherapy before the surgery, doctors do not know if there had been any cancer in the lymph nodes or not.
Barb finished chemotherapy in October 1997. Her friends threw a “done with chemo party.” Her doctors determined she did not need to take radiation treatments.
At the end of October 2008, Barb found a slightly painful lump in her right breast.
Her April mammogram had showed nothing wrong. At the time, Barb’s mother was dying and she needed to be with her, so Barb did not tell anyone about the lump until December 2008, when she spoke to a surgeon. At that time, a mammogram showed a very large lump.
Barb’s second battle with cancer was more difficult. During the years, she had developed heart disease, so she had to go through heart tests. In February 2009, she began a different kind of chemotherapy. However her blood had never totally recovered from the first time. Several times her chemotherapy was delayed.
In May 2009, Barb fell and broke her leg. She went to Iowa City and had a rod put in her femur. Her leg did heal well even with her continuing chemotherapy treatments.
Barb finished her chemotherapy in July 2009, but had to take Herceptin for 52 weeks. At the end of August 2009, she began radiation therapy, which she finished in October 2009.
Throughout both of her battles with cancer, Barb has been determined to carry on with her life and traditions. She and her husband continued to attend Hawkeye football games. She also holds a July 4 party every year and continued to hold it during both incidents of cancer.
Currently Barb is cancer free. She is getting better, but is still tired. She was told that due to her age, recovering from the chemotherapy would take longer the second time around. Since her last chemotherapy, Barb sometimes struggles with remembering names and other information. She said it could be her age or the chemotherapy.
Barb had a lot of support and help during her cancer. In 1997, her daughter, Wendy, was in school in Iowa City and worked part time in the hospital. She was able to be with Barb during her treatment. The first time, Ken was unable to take her to her treatments due to the business. However, the second time, they were able to get a pharmacist to fill in for him during her treatments. Barb said her friends, family and staff at the pharmacy were wonderful during her struggles, as well as Aggarwal and his nurses. Barb has also been very active in Girl Scouts for years. In 2009, a friend of hers arranged for the Girl Scouts to bring in food every Thursday so she could have a meal after chemotherapy.
Barb has learned that God is always with her. She believed that she could fight things on her own but learned she could not and did not have to. Sometimes, she thinks she has experienced this so that she can better help her patients who are going through similar struggles. She encourages women to give themselves breast self-exams and see their doctors if they find something.
Barb still worries that the cancer will return. However, she does not let that stop her from living her life.