Wrapping a Young Mother in Care After a Breast Cancer Diagnosis
Early last year, Jennifer Lundin experienced some changes in her breast. She was coming off two years of breastfeeding her son and dealing with recurring mastitis, an inflammation of breast tissue that sometimes causes an infection. It’s common in breastfeeding women, so Lundin’s doctor prescribed antibiotics that helped with the symptoms temporarily. Until one day, Lundin noticed another change in her breast.
“I woke up and felt a lump,” she said. “It was getting quite large, and I was having some breast pain. I later noticed some dimpling under my breast.”
Lundin’s doctor referred her for a mammogram, which was followed by an ultrasound and biopsy over the course of nearly eight hours in one day. After testing was complete, it was confirmed that Lundin, only 35-years-old at the time, had stage 3B breast cancer that spread to her lymph nodes.
During Lundin’s long day of testing, she found herself wrapped in care by a team who would be there for her during every step of her cancer journey.
She soon sat down with Mona Cook, UnityPoint Health Breast Cancer Care Coordinator, who served as Lundin’s constant point of contact — from diagnosis through treatment and beyond. Cook walked Lundin through all the information she needed to know.
“I just thank Mona,” Lundin said. “Because in that moment, I wasn’t alone. I had her there to walk me through the process. She also set up everything with my surgeons and oncologist.”
Exceptional Breast Cancer Care from an Exceptional Team
Before Lundin could have surgery, she needed chemotherapy to shrink her tumor. She saw Rasa Buntinas, MD, an oncologist at Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center, a partner of UnityPoint Health, who recommended 18 rounds of chemotherapy.
“Dr. Buntinas provided exceptional care,” Lundin said. “She’s always been able to answer my questions and put my mind at ease. And her team in the infusion room – everyone was so empathetic. They’d welcome me with a hug, sit down and talk with me. I couldn’t have made it through without them.”
In December, after chemotherapy shrank Lundin’s cancer, she had surgery by Kerri Nowell, MD.
“I felt like she cared,” Lundin said of her surgeon. “I didn’t feel like just another patient. I felt like she genuinely cared, and she blew me away with her bedside manner.”
Following surgery, Lundin had 28 sessions of radiation treatment with Nick Loudas, MD and the team at the cancer center.
“They were amazing,” Lundin said. “The first day I didn’t know what to expect. They explained everything and radiation was, by far, the easiest part of my treatment. I give kudos to the team for that. You walk in there every day, and they smile and call you by name. You feel like you matter.”
Breast Cancer Support for the Whole Patient
UnityPoint Health community-based cancer centers are committed to treating not just the cancer, but the entire person. Support services range from nutrition, social work, exercise and integrative wellness programs. Lundin used nearly every service available to her and appreciates they don’t stop when treatment is over.
“The dietitians answered a lot of my questions, and the social workers always check in. Even now that I’m out of active treatment, they still reach out to see how I’m doing,” Lundin shared. “And Matt Schmitz, cancer exercise specialist, has been wonderful. Any time you need to see him he makes time for you.”
Partnering with Your Care Team to Address Breast Cancer Symptoms or Concerns
As a young cancer patient, Lundin is passionate about sharing her story. She wants others to know breast cancer can happen to women younger than the age of 40 and hopes women will work with their doctors to thoroughly address any symptoms or concerns related to their breast health.
“For younger women, there’s a common theme: ‘You’re too young for breast cancer.’ I keep hearing the same story and if I can tell them anything, it’s to advocate for yourself, because no one else can do that for you. There’s no harm in asking for a test to put your mind at ease.”
Talk to Your Doctor About Your Breast Health
If you’re concerned about your breast health, and/or have a family history of breast cancer, it’s always a good idea to schedule an appointment with your doctor. As your partner in health, your doctor will help you determine next steps to ensure you receive the care you need and deserve.
Women under the age of 40, with a known family history of breast cancer, should discuss when to begin breast cancer screenings with their doctor. UnityPoint Health has cancer care throughout our locations in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your individual breast health and risk.