A Breast Exam Saved Janice.

Profile Story: Janice Freeman

Janice Freeman

Janice Freeman was at the ripe age of 22, a senior in college and was determined to continue onto graduate school — just like many of us students here at University of Iowa.

With graduation in sight, just three weeks away, Janice was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I found my own lump while doing a self-breast exam, [which is] so important to do,” Janice said. “I went to my gynecologist a couple months after I had found it.”

Janice found the lump in December and after her gynecologist check it in March 2008, he sent Janice to a breast specialist to have it checked out.

On April 18, 2008, Janice found out it was breast cancer.

“’Lo and behold, such is the life,” said Janice.

After Graduation & Diagnosis

While Janice still planned on obtaining her graduate degree, she had to postpone it so she could start treatments.

“Fortunately, the school let me defer the start of my grad degree for a semester,” said Janice. “I worked full time that summer, while undergoing treatment. It was my first salary paying job.”

While her life was “pretty much routine,” she went to work, did chemotherapy once a week and in the fall when she was supposed to start school she had surgery: mastectomy and reconstruction.

“I did my best to be a normal college graduate,” said Janice. “But it was definitely difficult to be excited to go out and be with friends when my body was completely depleted of energy.

From start to finish

From the time Janice was diagnosed to her final surgery, 16 months had passed.

“I underwent 6 rounds of chemotherapy on a three week cycle. The entire therapy took 4.5 months,” said Janice. “I was allowed to ‘heal’ for a month and then had my surgery and reconstruction, where I took 5 weeks to recover from.”

Janice had three surgeries, in which her first surgery took 8.5 hours long.

Janice had found her lump in her breast while doing a self-breast exam, which on average, many women do not do.

Life goes on

Janice says her life is relatively normal now. She had a wonderful boyfriend who stayed by her side and helped her through everything.

“A year after my diagnosis, my wonderful boyfriend, who was with me through the whole process, proposed to me,” said Janice.

On top of planning her wedding, Janice also works full time, goes to school where she plans to graduate in December from Georgia Tech with a civil engineering degree, and she works with other young women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I also spend time doing fundraisers which help support both awareness about the disease and to raise funds for research and support to other women.”

Is she worried the cancer could return? “Absolutely.”

About every week, once a wee Janice thinks about the haunting idea that it could return.

“Being involved with different programs doesn’t always help that, but it does help others, and in some ways, it eventually helps me,” said Janice. “There is always going to be a worry and concern that this horrible disease will rear its ugly head once again in my life. The best way that I can prevent that is to listen to my doctors, listen to myself, and to maintain the positive attitude that is absolutely needed to get through the diagnosis.”

Advice for the Future

The biggest advice that young women need to hear is that self-breast exams could save your life. There is no way out there right now for women under the age of 40 to monitor their breast health according to Janice.

Janice says that by doing regular self-breast exams and by being honest with yourself, you can drastically reduce the effects that cancer can have on your body.

“Its no perfect method, but it is always better to stop things before they are allowed to get any worse,” said Janice. “The only other advice that I would give to young women is to do what makes you happy. Life is too short and too precious to stress over a bad grade. Enjoy life, go where you want to go, do what you want to do.”

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