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Humphrey woman will never give up

October 6, 2018

Editor’s note: In honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Columbus Telegram is publishing a week-long series, “Think pink,” sharing the stories of community members who battled or are currently battling breast cancer. The series started on Tuesday; read previously published stories on columbustelegram.com. The Telegram’s masthead is also pink this week instead of its normal red to commemorate the month.

Anna Martensen was smiling on Wednesday as she strolled through Frankfort Square. She was going to run a few errands before heading into work at First National Bank in Columbus, where she serves as a senior customer care specialist.

As part of her job, she helps people with different problems they’re having regarding their accounts.

“I love my job,” she said, with a laugh.

The Humphrey woman talked about her love for her family, which includes her husband, Dennis, and three grown daughters, Cheyanne Erks, Lindsay Zimmerer and Nina Zimmerer, as well as her passion for gardening.

Although it isn’t noticeable, one thing’s for sure: Martensen is a fighter. She’s in the midst of battling stage 4 breast cancer - she was first diagnosed a little over two years ago.

It began in February 2016 when she went for a mammogram – admittedly her first in five years. At that point, a lump had been discovered in her right breast but it had gotten so large the machinery for the exam couldn’t be used. As a result, an ultrasound was commissioned and before long she was given a stage 2 breast cancer diagnosis.

“I wish I had gone through mammograms every year. I have a strong feeling it would have been caught,” Martensen said. “They were very quick at Columbus Community Hospital. They got me in for the ultrasound within minutes and then the following morning they got me in for a biopsy and determined it was breast cancer.”

By the following Friday, Martensen said she began chemotherapy. Thankfully, she said, Dr. Ronald Ernst was by her side and helping her figure out her options, which ultimately resulted in her making the decision to remove her breasts.

“I went through a mastectomy after chemo with Dr. Ernst, which was awesome,” Martensen said. “Dr. Ernst counseled me through what I wanted done, and even though it was only on one side, I wanted a bilateral mastectomy. Dr. Ernst was just great.”

Martensen elected to not have reconstruction surgery following the procedure, noting she felt she would be in enough pain recovering.

After her recovery, and with much encouragement from her daughter Lindsay, Martensen decided to schedule a positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which is an imaging test that helps reveal how a person’s tissues and organs are functioning. It was then she learned her chemotherapy hadn’t gone as planned.

“The chemo actually resulted in (cancer) growing and spreading,” she said, noting it transitioned through her lymph nodes into her back and shoulder. “It didn’t work for me, and unfortunately, we had no way of knowing it wouldn’t work for me.”

She began radiation treatment with Dr. Joan Keit at Columbus Cancer Care, which has and continues to help.

“Every time I have radiation, it works,” she said. “I have PET scans every six months to a year, and if it shows cancer, we zap it and it’s good. The PET scans show it comes back in different spots – it has been the back, the shoulder, the lower arm. It comes up in different places during different scans at different times.”

Martensen has what is classified as stage 4 cancer today. Besides the PET scans and doctor visits, she gets bone-strengthening shots on a monthly basis as cancer has spread to her bones. The mom of three remains in good spirits, though.

“I’m doing very well. I still go out and do yard work; I love to garden,” she said. “Unfortunately, hail got my garden this year. I don’t feel like I have breast cancer, honestly, I just go about my day.”

A big part of her positive attitude has everything to do with those who surround her. Martensen said being able to stay in town for treatment has been a tremendous positive, as has the support from her employer, family and friends.

“First National Bank, they have been phenomenal,” she said, adding her husband and daughters have helped her with everything throughout the whole process.

Lindsay praised her mom.

“She’s very giving, loving, she would do anything for anyone. She’s creative,” Lindsay said.

Martensen isn’t one to dwell on the past, however, she said she would encourage people to be proactive when it comes to their health.

“It wasn’t a priority,” she said, noting she let her hectic schedule get in the way of making doctor appointments for herself. “I wish I would have done self-exams and wish I would have gotten mammograms.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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