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Celebrating Survivors: Self-exams can be key to catching breast cancer early

October 9, 2018

Grace Jernberg saw a doctor after finding a lump during a self-exam in 1979.

She can still recall the receptionist’s casual attitude when Jernburg told her she believed she had cancer, and she was scheduled an appointment for a full week after her visit.

“I was talking to a friend of mine, and she said ‘You should have had an appointment yesterday,’” Jernberg said.

That friend convinced Jernberg to call back and have her doctor’s appointment moved up. After an exam, it was determined that she had breast cancer.

“It had been so unexpected,” Jernberg said. “Everybody thinks that it won’t happen to them, but when it does, they’re shocked.”

Although she didn’t have to undergo chemo, Jernberg did have to have a mastectomy.

Mastectomies can be difficult surgeries for women. Jernberg still has a large green sweater that was given to her as a Christmas gift after her surgery. Due to its large size, Jernberg said that wearing it made her feel like she was still “normal” after her mastectomy.

Support from family and friends helped Jernburg heal – especially support from her husband.

“Fortunately, my husband was very good to me,” Jernberg said. “He depended on me, and I didn’t know how he operated when somebody was sick and he had to take care of them.”

While her husband helped a great deal, Jernberg attributes much of her strength to her faith.

“I think the thing that I really depended on to get through that was that I had a spiritual renewal about four years before, so I knew I needed to depend on God to get me through it,” Jernberg said. “That made a difference because I was always a worrier. I always expected the worst.”

Jernberg said it is important for people to self-exam, given what she went through. Because of her self-exam, the cancer was caught early and affected a small area.

Next year, Jernberg will become a 40-year survivor of breast cancer.

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