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Jolene’s Story (Breast Cancer, Ovarian cancer)

I have debated writing this story, but decided if I can encourage just one person to stay strong and carry on, then it is worth it. I was a 42-year-old divorced mother of 4 and was working 3 to 4 jobs at a time. In March 2010, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. After a lumpectomy, it was lowered to stage 1 but was large enough for my doctor to want me to do chemo and radiation.

I did 8 rounds in 4 months, followed by a month of radiation daily. I saw my doctor every 3 months, then 6, then once a year, finally, after 6 years. I was triple negative. I had genetic counseling and testing. No one has had this cancer in my family that we know of, and genetically, it doesn’t show either. That’s good news for my 4 children, but lucky me! I was the lucky one in a million!

Fast forward to January 2017. After being seen by my gynecologist for pains and discomfort, he immediately ordered an ultrasound, followed by a CAT scan. I asked for the worst case scenario, and he said, ovarian cancer. The next day, I received a call from him confirming this. He was kind enough to have referred me to a specialist about 75 miles away.

Fearing my breast cancer had returned and metastasized, I went through more tests and a biopsy. This confirmed the original diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Stage 3. We scheduled surgery for a full hysterectomy about a week and a half later, which was followed by 18 weekly chemo treatments. During this time, my platelets got low. I was exhausted. I needed a transfusion once. I had to have 3 infected teeth pulled, requiring yet another transfusion. I felt so drained. I just didn’t know how I could carry on. But with the will to live and support of my family—who made sure I got to those treatments weekly, 75 miles away!—plus friends and coworkers–who also helped with the weekly trip and a fundraiser for me—and my wonderful children who supported me daily, I managed to get through. We did more genetic testing, and STILL it came back negative. So once again, I am just that lucky one in a million!

It has been 6 months since I finished treatments, and I’m approaching my one year mark since my diagnosis. Also, ironically, I am approaching my 8 year breast cancer “free” mark! I am tired daily. I try to rush being 100%, which honestly, I may never be again. But I AM alive! In November, I celebrated my 50th birthday, and I am back to work full time. I may not be strong enough to go back to my other 2 part-time jobs, but I have started to work a few hours a month at one of them. So, to anyone who is facing either of these illnesses, just keep in mind: if I can do it twice, you can do this!

South Dakota
Submitted 01/14/2018

This story is intended to convey a personal experience and, because every person’s experience is unique, should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.

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  1. Janelle Tacke

    Jolene Mondragon is my sister and one of the strongest and bravest people I know! She is a fighter and never gives up! I love you Jolene!

  2. Carol Olson

    You are an amazing person Jolene, I will keep saying prayers for your continued good health. Thank you for sharing your life of ups and downs with us. ??

  3. #Andrea

    Jolene, ty for your story!! As a sister in cancer(ovca), I wish you peace and comfort.

  4. Krista

    Jolene, thank you for sharing your story. It gives me hope!

  5. ALexa

    I am almost a year post surgery and chemo. I am still not 100 percent. We will get there!

  6. April Koning

    Thank you for your story Jolene! You make me feel like I can get through my own ordeal better now, God bless you and your loving family and friends!

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