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A Mom’s Support Team

Kim Jansen generally feels outnumbered, but loved, at her house.

During a quick game of football in the front yard with three of the five sons she and her Husband Steve share, she grabs the ball, giving a triumphant laugh.

“It’s constant chaos and noise and I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Kim says. “I haven’t missed a game yet because I was too sick or too tired.”

Kim is nearing the end of her treatment for breast cancer, after finding a suspicious lump this spring. Her husband and their sons, ranging in age from nine to 18, have been her support system and reason to get better.

“Steve has done so much to support me through this. He has been to every doctor’s appointment with me, cooked, cleaned and made sure kids got where they needed to be.” Says Kim.

The Sioux Falls woman says that her willingness to check out something that didn’t feel right and the expert treatment that followed from Sanford Health has saved her life.

“This whole process, I’ve never felt like I couldn’t do it, or it wouldn’t work out,” says Kim. “You put yourself in the experts’ hands and you do what needs to be done.”

An unusual sign

The 44-year-old woman had her regular mammogram in September with no signs of cancer, but by May had noticed a lump in her breast. She decided to have it checked out, not expecting anything serious.

It was a major surprise when a mammogram and follow-up testing at Sanford Breast Health Institute showed a tumor in her breast, which her doctors believe developed over just a few months, aggressively spreading to the lymph nodes under her arm. Soon, she and Steve had to break the news to their children.

“It was the hardest part,” she says, sitting next to her youngest son. “I’m supposed to be here to protect them. They’re not supposed to have to feel like they need to protect me.”

The boys, who watched a family friend struggle through breast cancer treatments, were worried about Kim and had lots of questions. But the couple assured their sons that the treatment would be different.

Her treatment plan

Kim started out with chemotherapy treatments this summer, with the hopes of shrinking the tumor. Her boys helped her shave her head before her hair fell out, having fun telling the hairdresser what parts of their mom’s hair to take out first.

“I started out with a reverse mohawk, a strip right down the middle,” she says.

When her cancer failed to shrink, her team of doctors at Edith Sanford Breast Health advised immediate surgery followed by radiation treatments.

Sanford Surgical Associates’ newest fellowship-trained breast cancer surgeon, Dr. Jesse Dirksen, performed a double mastectomy. She felt secure that the surgical specialist, who trained at programs known worldwide for excellence in breast surgical oncology, would remove her cancer and get her back on her feet.

Throughout the whole process, Kim says she greatly appreciated the collaborative team approach at Sanford Breast Health, where diagnostic and treatment specialists of all types get together weekly to collaborate on each patient’s care. Patient navigators helped answer her questions and got her lined up with the medical experts she needed.

“Even the doctors you’ve never met have been meeting and talking about the best treatment for you,” says Kim. “I had trust that they would take care of me.”

While doing her best to balance work and family responsibilities, Kim underwent radiation treatments to ensure that no traces of cancer would be left in her body after surgery.

On one recent afternoon, when she needed to make it to homecoming festivities right after her treatment, she took a couple of her sons with her. They watched with the radiation technicians as their mother got her treatment.

“They probably know more about how the radiation is done than me,” she says.

Help at home

Her husband and sons picked up and pitched in on the days when she needed some extra rest. Teamwork is essential when the family’s schedule requires that the crock-pot provide dinner between sports practices and games and the laundry never ceases.

With the end of her treatments in sight, Kim is happy to say that she’s feeling better. Her hair is coming back in, making it easier to sit in the stands for cross-country meets and football games. Her doctors tell her that her future looks good.

“I know I have nothing to be afraid of,” she says. “Cancer is no death sentence and it’s not going to take you away.”

Kim has participated for years in an annual breast cancer fundraising walk. This year, her sons came along, wearing special t-shirts made up to honor their mother. Next year, she plans to walk again, this time to celebrate her good health.

Nine-year-old Sam looks up at his mother and asks, “Mom, do you count as a survivor?”

She ruffles his hair and answers, “That’s where you’re going to see me. It’s what I know I am.”

For more information on breast screenings and Edith Sanford Breast health, click here.

Posted Date: November 2012