Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

October 1, 2013

Cancer survivor: vigilance will pay off

Kokomo woman promotes mammograms, self-exams to men and women of all ages.

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Jane Read was in the shower on Labor Day weekend seven years ago when her doctor called to deliver bad news.

The then-62-year-old had breast cancer.

She doesn’t remember being scared at all by the diagnosis, though, she said.

“I thought, ‘That’s step one. What’s next?’” she said. “We’re going to fight this.”

And because Read was proactive, she had a fighting chance.

She started getting yearly mammograms when she was 39.

Read said she had a long history of fibrocystic breast disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, fibrocystic breasts are composed of tissue that feels lumpy or rope-like in texture.

It’s a precondition for breast cancer, said Read, who is also a nurse.

The Kokomo woman had a breast cancer scare long before she was diagnosed in 2006.

“I had some lumps that formed overnight,” she said.

Read immediately went to the doctor, and she underwent a lumpectomy to have the mass removed. It was benign.

She felt no lumps when she went for a yearly mammogram in 2006. But the old machines showed a shadow that warranted more testing. So she was sent for a digital mammogram.

Those were new at the time and very expensive.

That test, too, showed a spot. And a biopsy later revealed that it was cancerous. It was a slow-growing cancer caught in the very early stages, she said.

Her treatment was a little tricky, though. Read also suffers from an auto-immune disease called lupus. She couldn’t undergo radiation therapy because of it, she said.

“The doctor asked me ‘How would you feel about a mastectomy?’” she recalled. “I laughed and said if that’s what needs to be done. There’s not much there anyway.”

So that’s what happened. Doctors removed one of her breasts.

She has been cancer free now for seven years.

Read has no question that the mammogram saved her life.

She said she has taught her three daughters to be cautious. They all do self-exams and get mammograms, too.

“My family is very grateful for early detection,” her daughter, Judith Townsend, said in an email.

Read tries to encourage other people — men and women both young and old — to be on the lookout for the signs of breast cancer.

Men can get it, too, she said. In fact, when she was in the hospital’s oncology unit, she saw men undergoing treatments for breast cancer.

Hopefully, it wasn’t too late for those men. Read said she has friends who waited too long to see a doctor.

“There are some women who are so afraid that they won’t go get it checked,” she said.

One of her friends had a discharge coming from one of her breasts, sometimes bloody. She hid it by wearing a padding of some kind.

Other friends have ignored similar signs. It’s had serious consequences.

“They’re dying because they wouldn’t go,” she said.

Read, though, will be celebrating her 51st wedding anniversary with her husband, Richard, this week because she was vigilant.

She couldn’t have survived her struggles with breast cancer without him, she said.

“He’s been with me through this all the way,” she said.

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com.