My name is Jen Guitar. I am a breast cancer survivor. I have a beautiful family that includes my husband, John, my Kids Dylan (11) and Bridgette (10), and my fur baby Bear, a.k.a the best dog in the world. It was 2020 when I felt a persistent lump that wouldn’t go away. I always had very dense breast tissue and it was common for me to feel lumps and bumps. I previously had imaging done, both a mammogram and ultrasounds, but nothing ever came up. This time was different. Two weeks after a biopsy, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on Dec 1st, 2020, at the age of 38.
After my diagnosis, I was both shocked and scared. Thoughts of my children losing their mother were hard to shake. I couldn’t stomach thinking about the future. I was overcome with emotion and felt incredibly overwhelmed. I immediately started reading all I could about breast cancer and prayed I caught it early enough. After a few more biopsies, MRIs and a PETscan I was told it was stage 3 Invasive Ductal Carcinoma.
The news was heavy and a lot to process. I was reminded of a lesson I had first learned when my son was born with Down syndrome, ‘take one day at a time’. I knew time was of the essence to rid this cancer from my body and I started treatment in less than a month. I got my port placed on Christmas Eve and began chemotherapy a few days later. My regimen was 4 rounds of AC (Adriamycin-Cytoxan) followed by 12 rounds of Taxol. After 5 months of Chemo, I opted for a bilateral mastectomy with sentinel lymph node removal. During my mastectomy I had temporary implants placed but unfortunately, shortly after the mastectomy, I developed infections which required multiple implant replacement surgeries. I was put on long-term antibiotics via PICC line. Although my radiation treatment had been delayed I was finally able to begin 25 fractions of Proton Therapy Radiation in October. I completed active treatment on Thanksgiving 2021 and rang the hell out of that bell!
I couldn’t believe it had been a full year of treatment! I was extremely thankful that it was over. However, after a year of pushing myself mentally and physically to fight this horrible disease, I found myself now feeling lost, guilty, and fearful of recurrence. Because my cancer was hormone sensitive and because I’m still pre-menopausal, my doctor has to keep my body in a chemically induced menopause. My current treatment plan includes monthly hormone blocking injections and taking pills over the next 5 to 10 years.
I look back over the last year fighting cancer during a pandemic, might I add, and I am so thankful that I am still here. People say things like “you’re so strong” and “wow, you’ve been through a lot” but I am not a superhero, I am just like you. I am someone who is loved and because of that love, I am strong and got through difficult things. I have learned that the journey of cancer is not meant to go through alone, it is too big a burden to bear. There is power and healing in sharing stories and carrying one another when we are down. My name is Jen Guitar, I am a breast cancer survivor and this is my story.