About Jeni / My name is Jeni Rehder and my breast cancer journey began long before my own diagnosis. It started when my sister Carol was diagnosed more than 16 years ago. Today, I am committed to advocating the early detection and prevention of breast cancer through 3D mammography, genetic screening and breast density determination for women and men at much earlier ages. My foundation, We Demand 3D, will provide support for our journey.
( read more below)
My Sister Carol
My journey started 16 years ago, supporting my sister, Carol, through her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment. Carol was a vibrant, fun-loving, 38-year-old business professional when she was diagnosed with Stage 3 HER2 positive, lymph node positive, hormone negative breast cancer. She identified a lump in her left breast during a routine self-examination that would change our lives profoundly.
Carol gave every ounce of energy fighting her breast cancer for four years. Her rigorous treatments included a mastectomy, multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation. She finally succumbed to this hollowing disease on November 20, 2006. My two young sons would never get to know how much their auntie loved and cherished them.
Carol’s passing weighed heavily on me as the years passed and I had an underlying concern that her disease was not environmentally caused. Finally, in 2013, I completed genetic screening for BRCA 1 and 2 and my results implied no predisposition to breast cancer — I breathed a huge sigh of relief! In 2015, my OB/GYN educated me on the latest 3D mammography imaging technology and we initiated this conservative approach for my annual screenings. Over the next two years, my 3D mammograms indicated no anomalies other than extremely dense breast tissue (Level 4).
My "grains of sand"
On May 9th, 2018 (also my 26th wedding anniversary), my annual 3D Mammogram detected micro calcifications in my right breast and benign micro calcifications in my left breast. The confirmatory 3D mammogram five days later verified the right breast micro calcifications were inconclusive in what the radiologist described as “grains of sand” – no lump yet. The radiologist informed me that a biopsy was needed to make the determination. My right breast biopsy was performed on May 16 and the results confirmed in-situ and invasive ductal carcinoma breast cancer. Although my cancer was caught early, I was in complete shock! This could not be happening to me—this was Carol all over again! How was my life going to change? Emotions and thoughts were swirling in my mind. How were my husband and my boys (now 15 and 13 years old) going to cope with this news? This was absolutely crazy—I had been healthy and active for 51 years!
On May 30, my right breast lumpectomy was performed with an intense mammography preparation due to my extreme breast density. The oncology surgeon removed a 2.5 cm spherical tissue mass along with the sentinel lymph node. She wanted to be absolutely certain the entire cancer area was removed with clear margins. When I woke from the lumpectomy procedure, I was extremely angry. I wanted to kick this cancer’s a--! This could not be happening to me!
A change in diagnosis
My tissue results June 1 confirmed that the in-situ ductal carcinoma (18mm X 20mm) and invasive ductal carcinoma (4mm) masses were entirely removed. The oncology surgeon happily reported I would not need additional surgeries as my margins and lymph node were clear. I was categorized as a Stage 1A, HER2 negative, lymph node negative, and hormone positive with a very clear treatment path. This path would most likely include a four-week radiation treatment followed by 10 years of hormonal therapy. Due to my family history and size of invasive cancer though, my tissue samples would be sent to a California lab for additional oncotyping. She also stated that because of my breast density level, and without 3D mammogram imaging, my breast cancer wouldn’t have been detected for two more years! The emotions from a few weeks ago swelled in my mind again—at least it was caught early! I was only Stage 1A! I needed to schedule my oncology appointments and begin radiation treatment.
On July 3, my oncology surgeon informed me that the California oncotyping results conflicted with the previous pathology results in Minnesota. I was confirmed to be HER2 positive. Two different test methods at both the California and Minnesota labs substantiated this result. She wanted to prepare me for my initial oncology visit as now my treatment path may include chemotherapy and monoclonal antibody drugs.
My treatment journey
Over the next six weeks, I spent a lot of sleepless nights attempting to get more information on my invasive breast cancer and recommended treatment options. I reviewed several articles my sister April (an ENT surgeon) and her oncologist friend sent me. Additionally, I was fortunate to receive a second opinion at the University of Minnesota and a third opinion at the Mayo Clinic. All of the oncologists communicated there was no guarantee my cancer was completely contained and that chemotherapy was a personal decision. They could not confirm my exact survival rate given the various treatment options. Little information is currently available for HER2 positive breast cancer at early stages. The Mayo Clinic did inform me that hormonal therapy isn’t as effective with HER2 positive breast cancer. Would radiation and hormone treatments be enough? Was chemotherapy appropriate for a 4mm invasive mass? What if my oncology surgeon removed all the cancer? After another week of sleepless nights, a bout of shingles, and a lot of online research, I had made my decision!
We Demand 3D
Fortunately, my breast cancer was caught extremely early by 3D mammography.
My story, like so many others affected by this disease, is a journey taken one day at
a time and marked by the hope and will of spending more time with my family.
I chose chemotherapy followed by radiation and hormonal therapy,
confident that I will have a longer LIFE!
I am committed to advocating the early detection and prevention of breast cancer through 3D mammography, genetic screening and breast density determination for women and men at much earlier ages. My foundation, We Demand 3D, will provide support for our journey.
Founder of WE Demand 3D™
Breast Cancer Prevention
Supporter and Breast Cancer SURVIVOR