A survivor's story: Life-changing experience
Courtesy photo Glenda Eisenbeisz, second from right, with grandson Isaiah Heilman, daughter Brooke Heilman, son-in-law Lyle Heilman, daughter Paige, son Blake Jr. and husband Blake.
“I am 95 percent sure you have breast cancer.” Those were the words I heard on Nov. 7, 1997 — a date forever etched in my mind.
The next morning, I went out to rake leaves to keep myself occupied. My 12-year old daughter came outside and said, “Are you going to die?” I told her that the doctor was very encouraging and I felt good about being able to beat it. I wasn't as sure as I was trying to make her believe, but I had hope.
After discussing options, my husband and I decided we wanted a second opinion. My doctor got an appointment for me in Sioux Falls. After meeting Dr. Khristine Lindo, I decided she was the doctor I wanted. She was kind and compassionate, and was able to show us what the healthcare people had seen — there was a mass with a fingerlike projection.
I needed a biopsy first. If the mass was malignant, I'd need surgery. After discussing the options with my husband and our family doctor, I decided that I wanted the mastectomy if the lump proved to be cancer. Five days later, I had it. Lymph nodes were also taken to see if the cancer had spread. Two days after my surgery, Dr. Lindo called to tell me that cancer was found in one lymph node so I would need chemo. Because I had a mastectomy rather than lumpectomy, I didn't need radiation. My cancer was called Stage 2A.
My husband, Blake, drove me to my first chemo treatment. We were about 40 miles out of Bismarck when I got sick. I thought, “Not already!” I was told to expect baldness in 10 days. On the 16th day, I got up and showered and found some hair in my hands as I was shampooing. I got out and started to comb my hair. I burst into tears and woke Blake.
I considered staying home from the school where I worked. Unless you've experienced it, you cannot understand how devastating hair loss can be. However, I decided I had to be strong for my children, and I knew God would be with me, so I plopped a hat on my head. When one of the teachers saw the hat, she knew why. She went to the drama department and got hats for the others and made it “Teacher Hat Day.” Who could have a better support system?
Following the chemo treatments, I took Tamoxifen for five years, and then Femara for another few years. My cancer has not returned. I feel very blessed. One of my first concerns had been seeing my children graduate. All three have graduated from high school, two are out of college, one has married, and we have a grandchild! I survived to experience all of it! I don't know why God chose me to have cancer. I know it has increased my faith and dependence on Him. It has also made me an advocate for early detection. I can't say it enough — get your mammogram, do your monthly self-exams, take care of yourself! I am blessed to be a 14-year survivor — and hope to survive many more.
— Glenda Eisenbeisz, Bowdle