Going through cancer is no walk through the park, but a tremendous support network made a major difference for Kay Jesse.
“People gave me magazines and coloring books to take to chemo to pass the time, but I always had someone with me. The coloring books and magazines stayed in my bag, and I ended up talking and laughing with the people who went with me,” said Jesse, a paralegal who was diagnosed with the disease in August 2015.
That’s not to say her treatments were easy or fun. She lost her hair and had problems with mouth sores. A cousin suggested she use plastic eating utensils rather than metal ones and that alleviated the mouth sores.
But she was grateful she didn’t have to make the journey alone.
Jesse said she also feels fortunate because her lump was found early. Doctors discovered something suspicious in her annual mammogram. A second mammogram and a sonogram, and doctors had an idea it was cancerous. Her doctor told her it was better they had found the cancer in the office when it was so small rather than it having grown to the point where she could feel it.
“They even had trouble seeing it,” she said.
Jesse had genetic testing and when it came back negative, she opted for a lumpectomy. Had it come back positive, she would’ve gone through a double mastectomy. She went through chemotherapy and radiation, and everything is clear. She has gone from having mammograms every three months to every six.
Not only were her family and friends supportive, her doctors and the staff at the University Hospital Breast Health Center were advocates.
“They were so wonderful,” she said. “They fitted me with a wig and people didn’t even know it was a wig.”
Because she received so much support, she wants to help others that may not have as extensive a support network as she does.
“I try to support others with breast cancer through the Lydia Project,” she said.
The main thing she wants women to know is that while cancer is scary, it’s treatable.
“Remember that ‘this too shall pass.’ When you look at the treatment schedule, it seems like it will be forever, but when you look back, it seems that it went by quickly,” she said.
And she’s convinced she received the best possible care right at home in Augusta.
“In the beginning, a lot of people told me to do research. But I felt the team at University was wonderful,” she said.
– Charmain Z. Brackett, correspondent