1400 N Ritter Ave, Suite 340
Indianapolis, IN 46219
When 26-year-old Jessica found a lump in her breast toward the end of January in 2015, she called her primary care physician to schedule an appointment. Her physician, upon examination, expressed concern with the lump and ordered a mammogram and biopsy for Jessica the following Monday.
Tuesday morning, Jessica, a radiation therapist at Community Hospital East, learned she had breast cancer while at work. Her co-worker was with her when she listened to the message, and, upon seeing Jessica’s reaction, quickly went to find a physician in their office to come and talk to her.
For additional support, the physician called a nurse navigator, Natalie, who came to comfort Jessica and helped her connect with Anuj Agarwala, MD, an MD Anderson Cancer Network© certified physician practicing medical oncology, as well as Robert Goulet, MD, an MD Anderson Cancer Network© certified physician specializing in breast surgery.
Jessica, now 28 years old, recalls being most upset that day about having to tell her family—as her own mother had had breast cancer.
“I see it every day in my job,” she said. “I knew it would be something I could handle, but I didn’t want to cause my family to worry.”
Dr. Goulet ordered an MRI, which uncovered a spot of cancer on her other breast. Because of that, Jessica had to undergo another mammogram and biopsy. Instead of a lumpectomy without treatment, she now faced a double mastectomy and chemotherapy.
On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Jessica underwent surgery under the care of Dr. Goulet. To keep her spirits up, her co-workers came and decorated her hospital room for the holiday—filling it with shamrocks and lots of festive green.
Roughly six weeks after surgery, Jessica began chemotherapy treatment, which lasted for five months before she was given a clean bill of health.
Throughout it all, Jessica had the support of her parents in Fort Wayne, who came down for every consultation and supported her throughout treatment. Her friends and co-workers rallied around her, as well as her boyfriend, whom she had been dating for less than a year at the time.
“It was a true test of our relationship,” Jessica said of the man she continues to date today.
To enhance her recovery, Jessica joined Indy SurviveOars, a group of breast cancer survivors and those committed to raising awareness who participate in dragon boat racing across the country. The activity not only allows the women to bond together, but it is also an excellent form of physical activity to aid in their healing.
Her journey has also impacted her daily work with cancer patients.
“I can see things from their side a little bit more,” she said. “There is so much going on when you face a cancer diagnosis. My patients know that I’m not just telling them things for the sake of telling them things—I understand what they are going through, and I am offering advice based on my experience.”
Jessica considers herself lucky, and is an advocate of self-exams for women of all ages. She is grateful to participate in Faces of The Giving Gig and is blown away by the generosity of those who attend the event.
“I’ve seen too many patients who really need help, and finances are the last thing you want to worry about when you’re battling cancer,” she said. “From taking off time for work to taking care of kids, everyone’s life is impacted and every little bit of help is great.”