Breast cancer survivor Janet Hill of John Day said she compares her ordeal to a car accident.
“You don’t think it will ever happen to you,” she said. “You don’t get in your car and think, ‘I’m going to get in a wreck today.’”
Hill was diagnosed with stage 3A breast cancer in early October last year and had a mastectomy two weeks later, just before Halloween, she said.
Ten years prior to her diagnosis, Hill had a cyst on her breast drained and was told it may need to be drained in the future. When she detected a lump, she didn’t worry.
Mammograms and ultrasounds didn’t pick up her cancer, possibly due to dense breast tissue, she said.
After a routine check up, her doctor asked if she had any other concerns, and Hill mentioned the lump she found.
From there, biopsies were performed, and a surgery was scheduled soon after.
Because the tumor was 8 centimeters in size, doctors think she may have had the tumor for five years before the diagnosis.
Cancer spread to a few of Hill’s lymph nodes — 36 were removed — but not to distant organs.
Hill owns and operates two local businesses, Java Jungle & Tropical Tan and The Floor Store.
Before her diagnosis, she had been feeling tired, but she thought it was just due to her busy life, helping customers and making orders, doing inventory and paperwork.
All of that slowed down.
Once she recovered from the mastectomy, Hill received 20 chemotherapy treatments, then 30 rounds of radiation.
“I lost all my hair around Thanksgiving time,” she said, adding she also experienced brain fog from chemo.
Asked how she made it through, Hill said, “A lot of it is mental — you have to really make yourself mentally strong.”
Hill said losing the ability to keep up with her busy lifestyle made her feel she was failing.
“I called a nurse and said, ‘I don’t know if I can keep doing this,’” she said. “The nurse said, ‘You can. You just need to pace yourself.’”
She said her friend and employee Heather Rookstool was a great support for her and took on more responsibilities at work.
“Heather really stepped up to the plate,” Hill said.
Her sister was “a big impact,” and other family members were also supportive, she said.
She recalled meeting a complete stranger in the Portland area, who, upon seeing Hill without her hat, gave her a thumbs up and said, “I was just like you a year ago.”
Hill’s next challenge will be reconstructive surgery in a couple months.
She said, although the mammogram didn’t pick up her cancer, she still believes they are important.
“The sooner they detect it, the better,” she said. “If you get it really early, you don’t have to do the radiation.”
She was surprised to learn how many different kinds of breast cancer exist and emphasized the importance of women being aware of their bodies.
Hill said she’s attended Tough Enough to Wear Pink and Rally for the Cure events and never thought she might one day have breast cancer herself.
“It’s more common than you think,” she said. “I didn’t realize how common it is.”
Through the ordeal, Hill learned just how tough she is.
“If I can do it, anyone can do it,” she said.
41 golfers Rally for the Cure in John Day
It was rainy and cool, but 41 women enthusiastically braved the weather at Saturday’s 15th annual Rally for the Cure golf scramble.
Eleven teams, with decorated golf carts and colorful, creatively themed outfits, participated in the event benefiting the Susan G. Komen Foundation, held at the John Day Golf Club.
Pink and white balloons were released that afternoon in memory of loved ones who had breast cancer.
Members of the winning team were Melody Miller, Kathy Gregory, Julie Proctor and Virginia Miller. The winner of the chip up contest was Melody Miller.
“We raised just over $4,000 from golf entries and auction,” said organizer Kimberly Ward, adding attendance was up by 12 this year. “The weather didn’t stop anyone from having a good time and remembering the cause.”