Two-Time Breast Cancer Survivor Sets Example for Future Patients

She says a positive attitude helped her through the fight

FARGO, N.D. — So many of us have our pink on for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but even though October is coming to a close, that doesn’t mean awareness should be fading from our minds.

Sandra Dunn, a two-time breast cancer survivor, shares her story and what her advice is for others.

She was diagnosed in 2008 for the first time.

“I was going to make it the year of fun. I wanted it to be, I wasn’t going to just remember chemo, radiation, surgery, the loosing of the hair,” she said.

She didn’t want to associate 2008 with having cancer, “so the day before my hair fell out, I went and bought a brand new car.”

Dunn says if something bad is going to happen that will bring you down, balance it out with something good.

“I woke up in the morning and it was sliding down my back, you cry a few tears, ‘I’m not going to work today. I don’t have hair’ and then you go, ‘I’m not going have hair tomorrow either,’ slap on that pretty new wig I bought, walked to my garage, got behind my pretty new car, and I went to work,” she said.

Dunn hopes her story will inspire those who hear the words, “you have cancer.”

According to the doctors at Sanford, one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Over 2,000 people are diagnosed each year at the Roger Maris Cancer Center. It really adds up. A lot of those people are coming in from a great distance. Being able to come to a center like this that’s comfortable and comprehensive where we have everything under one roof is a real blessing for us,” Colleen Hardy, development officer for the Sanford Health Foundation, said.

When Dunn got her second diagnosis in 2010, she says it was harder that year. However, it was times like a benefit her friends and family held that kept her spirits up.

“When you go into surgery after having an event where you’re given so much love, I went to that surgery with my head held high like, ‘let’s get this done,'” she said.

She says if you do have a loved one who has been diagnosed, it’s best to pay attention and listen a lot.

“Sometimes it’s better to listen and see what they need from you,” she said.

“A lot of us are really hard pressed to not know someone with cancer if it hasn’t been in our own family,” Hardy said.

Besides support from family and friends, Sanford Health has been there with programs at both Edith Sanford Breast Center and Roger Maris Cancer Center.

There are programs like the Mentor Survivorship program and Nurse Navigator program.

“It isn’t just about the chemo and the radiation but it’s those programs that we have to supplement their care, that really go the distance and set us apart,” Hardy said.

Dunn is part of the Mentor Survivorship program, which pairs someone who’s been diagnosed with breast cancer with someone who’s gone through it.

“There’s so much medical stuff coming at you and so many medical decisions, it’s very overwhelming, it’s necessary to talk to someone who’s gone through it that can identify with your emotions,” she said.

She says her positive attitude helped her through the fight.

“All the studies have shown the whole mind body connection. If you’re feeling better mentally, you really do heal faster physically,” Hardy said.

“I truly believe our minds heal our bodies. I believe positive energy heals our bodies. We just know we heal better when we’re happier,” Dunn said.

However, the dark days are inevitable.

“There’s no way you’re going to go through this and not have those days where— it’s dark. It’s allowing yourself time to be down, allowing yourself time to cry, but then you have to mentally pick yourself back up,” she said.

When she does have a bad day, she says reminding herself of the happy memories is what gets her through it.

“It’s been eight years since 2010, I have grandbabies, I’ve watched my children get married, and this is a wonderful life,” she said.

Sanford Health wants to remind women that regular mammograms and check–ups are important for detecting breast cancer early.

Categories: Health, Local News, North Dakota News