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Breast Cancer Awareness Month with Cristina Duncan, BSN, RN

What prompted you to get checked out?

For me, I had missed several just yearly mammogram screenings over the last couple of years. And I actually had a colleague who I had found out had been diagnosed with breast cancer. And it just kind of prompted me. I was like, okay, so I’ve put off enough of these. I probably should go ahead and, you know, get this done. So I went in for a routine screening. Upon the routine screening, they sent me for a diagnostic mammogram. And then from there, I ended up with the ultrasound and then the biopsy to ultimately find the breast cancer.

What stage were you diagnosed with?

It’s actually this is why, you know, early detection is so important. And it was actually stage one. So I did not require any kind of chemotherapy, part of the treatment that I went through because of where the cancer was found, it wasn’t anything that I could do, a lumpectomy or radiation. So it required the mastectomy. So for me, it was only one side. But, you know, screening for the other breast was in the future. So we just, my husband and I, kind of decided that we would go ahead and do the double mastectomy as it is now, of course, of treatment.

How did you feel when you first received the news?

I think it’s one of those things that as soon as anybody says. So I had, being a nurse, I had already researched everything. So I already was like, I’ll have a lumpectomy, maybe some radiation. I already had my whole course of treatment planned out. So I went to the doctor by myself, and so I sat in there and when she came in and she said, you know, you’re going to have to have a mastectomy, I just kind of like, like didn’t hear anything else.

Like I didn’t cry. I didn’t get my mind just went into this. Okay. Okay. And so I was just kind of go numb. And I think that’s what everybody says. When you hear the C-word, when you hear cancer, you just kind of. And it wasn’t until, you know, and she was very nice. She was like, do we need to call your husband? We can get him on the phone. And I was like, No, no, I’m good. I’m good. And it wasn’t until I got in the car and made the first phone call that I just kind of was like, I lost it because then it became very real. But then that only lasted for a minute. And then you just kind of you kick in to do what you got to do. And so went from there.

Did you have a support network?

Yes. If it were not for. So I had multiple support systems. So I obviously had my immediate family, you know, my husband, my sister, my brother, my sister-in-law. I had, you know, my friend group. I have a great, you know, support group in my friends and then my coworkers, my work family was huge and instrumental, and all of the support.

For me, what I found was you do a lot of research on your own. You don’t really get a whole lot of information from the physicians and, you know, the doctors who are telling you all what needs to be done. And so I really kind of had to advocate for myself. And I think that’s I think that’s the biggest takeaway from this whole thing, is that you have to follow up with the doctors. You have to say, what do I need? I found, oddly enough, I found huge support groups on social media. There were women who had Pinterest blogs that were like, Hey, this is what you need. This is what you take to the hospital. This is what you need at home. You know? So there was a lot of information that I found as resources from that.

What message would you like to provide women in the community?

You know, in any post that I put since I had my own diagnosis and went through my own journey, it’s one of those things you don’t really want to talk about while you’re going through it, but coming out of it is when you really want to send the message. And that message would be early detection. You have to, and advocate for yourself. I mean, even after I had that first mammogram, I didn’t get any results. And every year I had always gotten just like the little, you know, text message or thing in the mail saying, you’re good till the next year. And I didn’t get that.

So I had to keep calling the doctors and I had to keep calling. You know, they were like, you need, you know, a second, you know, diagnostic mammogram. I had to keep calling and advocating. So early detection and advocacy for yourself, you know, is probably the message that I would say. And then just know that through it all, if you have that support system and you have those people that are in your corner, everything works out, everything you know, you’re going to be okay.

How long have you been in recovery?

I just Tuesday had my one-year and six-month checkup. You have to go, for me, I have to go every six months for three years and then yearly for two years after that before they actually say, you know, you’re in remission. So I’m one year and six months now.


About the Author

Travel Nurses, Inc. is a leading travel nurse staffing agency providing nurses with opportunities to find work across the country. Established by nurses for nurses, TNI has been in business since 1988 and has over 30 years of experience.

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