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'A Sense of Clarity:' Wendt Center Patient Overcomes Breast Cancer, Health Challenges

Jennifer Brashaw rings the bell to celebrate the end of her cancer treatments.

Dubuque resident Jennifer Brashaw is a fighter in every sense of the word. From multiple sclerosis to heart troubles and breast cancer, Jennifer has overcome every battle that has come before her.

In October 2019, Jennifer was hospitalized with heart failure, due to stress cardiomyopathy. 

Four months later, Jennifer found herself seeking medical care, but for something unrelated to her heart condition. This time, it was the possibility of breast cancer.

Jennifer found a lump on her own while doing a self-exam and that’s when she noticed that something didn’t feel right. 

“I found the lump on my own and went in and got it checked out,” Jennifer said. “I just kept advocating for myself when things didn’t feel right.” 

This type of self-advocacy wasn’t new to Jennifer, as she has also struggled with multiple sclerosis (MS) since childhood.

Once the breast cancer diagnosis was confirmed, Jennifer was faced with the decision of where to begin her cancer journey. It was started with three lumpectomy surgeries, which was followed by 16 rounds of radiation at the Wendt Regional Cancer Center

Jennifer also took advantage of Genetic Counseling, a service offered at the Wendt Center that enables individuals to educate themselves about their risks for cancer based on family history. 

In her case, Jennifer had no family history of breast cancer, and she also tested negative for the BRCA gene, meaning she wouldn’t be able to pass it down to her son. 

“It came back that it was triple negative and that no one else in my family has any history of breast cancer,” Jennifer said. “It was a big relief and meant that I didn’t have to worry about passing that gene onto my son.” 

By going through a variety of health challenges throughout her life, Jennifer was impressed with how members of her care team worked together. 

Whether it was a cardiologist or an oncologist, they all had Jennifer’s best interests in mind.

“When I was going through cancer and the different treatments, all of my doctors worked together so well with the other providers,” Jennifer said. “They all worked together to come up with the best plan, all while ensuring I would be able to make informed decisions on my health. They were also very conscious about what they were doing, so it wouldn’t affect other aspects of my health.” 

Throughout her cancer treatment journey, Jennifer enjoyed getting to know the staff at the Wendt Center, especially those she worked with at every appointment. 

“It’s nice that you see familiar faces each time, instead of someone new,” Jennifer said. “That was definitely a highlight for me, because I was able to go back in and pick up where we left off in our conversation from the day before. It was a comforting factor for me and made my treatments smoother.”

Jennifer was thankful for the care the Wendt Center team provided her throughout her treatment journey. 

She quickly found that the staff is a special group of people. 

“The people are in the right line of work,” Jennifer said. “They are genuinely kind and caring. They just seemed to understand that people had their own battles, and they were very accepting around that.”

As she reflects back on her cancer treatment journey, Jennifer knows one component that was important – self-exams. 

She encourages anyone of any age to begin doing self-exams, as it is an easy way to better understand your body and keep your health on track. 

“Everyone seems to know that self-exams are the best for early detection,” Jennifer said. “No one else knows your body better than you do.”

With her cancer journey behind her, Jennifer is looking to continue living life without fear of what could or couldn’t happen with her health. 

Instead, it’s about enjoying the moment and taking it one day at a time.

“Out of everything I’ve experienced, cancer gave me a sense of clarity,” Jennifer said. “I’ve gone through a lot medically and a lot of the struggles have been about getting through, one day at a time. It really makes you see the important things in life. I’m going to enjoy today and not live in fear every day.”