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Denise’s Story: Thankful, Grateful, Blessed

Denise Jones-Thorn was diagnosed with stage 2 ER+, PR+, HER2+ invasive ductal carcinoma two years ago. Denise often had to return for follow-up tests after her annual mammograms, only to be told everything was fine. That changed in 2020. This is her story in her own words.

I went in for my annual mammogram and a couple of days after my appointment, I received a call that more testing was needed, an additional mammogram on the right breast and an ultrasound. I had been in for follow-up tests before and told it was nothing, I had fatty tissue, so I didn’t think too much about it. I wasn’t worried.

It was when I was called back for a third round of tests that I started to worry. I needed a needle biopsy and lymph node survey. I was so afraid of the unknown and I remember lying there and thinking what is happening? What is it?

Waiting for those results was stressful. I kept a lot of my stress inside. I felt like if my family didn’t see worry on my face, everyone would be okay and not be worried. But when I was alone, I’d end up crying, worrying about the results of the tests.

I’ll never forget Nov. 18, 2020. My life changed forever when my doctor said, “You have been diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer.” I was trying to take it all in and it was too much to take in all at once. I was in disbelief. I screamed to the top of my voice. I cried out. And while I was trying to process this news, the doctor said, “We need to schedule surgery and talk about treatments.” Everything became very real.

Almost a month later, I was scheduled for surgery. I had a lumpectomy on the right breast and two lymph nodes were removed. In January 2021, I was scheduled for surgery to receive a port and I immediately started chemotherapy the next day. I completed six cycles of chemotherapy and completed 21 days of radiation therapy. I was on an infusion maintenance drug for one year, and am taking a hormone therapy pill for five years.

This was the hardest thing I had to do in my life. I was so afraid of not knowing what to expect from the unknown of chemotherapy and radiation therapy, how it takes a toll on your body mentally and physically.

If someone has to come back for follow-up tests, it’s okay to be nervous and to be afraid, but it’s important to stay positive. Additional testing does not always mean something is wrong. Communicate with your doctors and ask all the questions you have about any testing. This will help you along the way.

There were days I didn’t think I was going to make it and all I could do was call upon the Lord to keep and bring me through. I remember after my first treatment of chemotherapy, I lost 20 pounds, lost my taste, my smell and I started losing my hair along with other side effects. I relied on my faith in God and the power of prayers to pull me out of my darkest moments.

Learn more about follow-up tests after an abnormal mammogram here.

Statements and opinions expressed are that of the individual and do not express the views or opinions of Susan G. Komen. This information is being provided for educational purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice. Persons with breast cancer should consult their healthcare provider with specific questions or concerns about their treatment.