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October 8, 2012

"Breast Cancer is not on my schedule"

A Power of Pink Profile: Jenny Hungerbuhler

CORBIN — Back in the spring, Jenny Hungerbuhler had a routine mammogram. She thought it was suspicious, and decided to have things checked out.

As it turned out, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Since then, Hungerbuhler’s had a lumpectomy, has undergone chemotherapy, had gall bladder surgery, and last Saturday became a grandmother for the first time.

She’s also back at work at Women’s Health Associates, inside Baptist Regional Medical Center in Corbin, where Hungerbuhler works as an Advanced Practice Nurse Practitioner who specializes in nurse midwifery.

Highly organized and highly upbeat, Hungerbuhler remembered those days in May and June when her health, and her life, were challenged.

“I had a biopsy on May 29, and I knew I had breast cancer by June 1st. It was ductal carcinoma in situ. On June 15th, I had a left lumpectomy. The test showed I needed to go on chemotherapy as a precautionary measure,” Hungerbuhler said.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine’s website PubMed Health, breast cancer may be invasive or noninvasive. Invasive means the cancer has spread from the milk duct or lobule to other breast tissues. Noninvasive means the cancer has not yet invaded other breast tissue. Noninvasive breast cancer is called “in situ.” Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is breast cancer in the lining of the milk duct that has not yet invaded nearby tissues. If untreated, it may progress to invasive cancer.

Hungerbuhler knew it was time to fight back. And fast.

“I had no family history of breast cancer. I’ve worked here for 32 years, was in good health, rarely missed work, and this came along. When I was diagnosed, I thought this is going to mess up my schedule. But we can work around that. Breast cancer is not on my schedule,” she stated.

Her chemotherapy began Sept. 7. After one chemo treatment, her hair fell out. In clumps. At the same time, a friend came by to help Hungerbuhler out. And what her friend did last month helped change her outlook during a rough period.

“Joyce Brown is an RN here at BRMC. She’s a breast cancer survivor and came to see me one day. I said to her, ‘Joyce, my hair is coming out by the handfuls.’ And she said, ‘Do you want me to shave your hair off?’ I told her, ‘I would love for you to shave my hair off.’ When she shaved it off, it was very liberating. It made me feel so much better. Prior to that I was throwing up, having severe abdominal pain and just feeling bad all over. Shaving my hair off my head really was a turning point during the whole ordeal,” Hungerbuhler recalled.

But the chemo treatments had to take a back seat to something else. It was gall bladder surgery, which was done Sept. 27. Hungerbuhler said the surgery was rough. While she was in recovery, she got a gift that helped her ride out the storms of surgery and chemo.

“When I woke up from the recovery area after the gall bladder surgery, there was a pink breast cancer cap. The cap came as a gift from Joyce Brown. She got that on her lunch break.”

Hungerbuhler continues to have chemo treatments every Friday, and won’t be finished with the treatments until a year from now. But she has support. From her husband, her family, and of course, from her friends at work.

“The girls at work have been fabulous. They’ve brought me dinner two times a week. And they’re very supportive. They’re like my sisters.”

And she now has that granddaughter. Born on Sept. 29, Anabelle Rain is the daughter of her son, Erik. Thanks to modern technology, Anabelle’s picture graces her grandmother’s smartphone, and is the apple of her eye.

Which is why Hungerbuhler continues to live life in an upbeat fashion. And why early detection for breast cancer is so important. To her, and to other women.

“Breast cancer is not the end of the world. There are some who think it’s a death sentence. But if you detect it early, and get proper treatment, you can beat it. If you have a mammogram every year, you should not die of breast cancer,” she noted.

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