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Family, friends provide support in Hubbard woman’s breast cancer fight

Hubbard woman fights aggressive form of disease

EDITOR’S NOTE: Local breast cancer survivors are sharing their stories on the Health pages throughout October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

HUBBARD — When it comes to coping with a cancer diagnosis and the spate of bad news that has followed, you could say Brenda Henderson resorts to the three “S’s: stoicism, support and stress management.

“I just take things one step at a time,” said Henderson, who was diagnosed early this year with a type of Stage 3 breast cancer called moderately differential invasive ductal carcinoma.

Henderson, 60, has dealt with the stress associated with the disease and setbacks via receiving a lot of support from family, friends and a host of others. Perhaps the most shining recent example was her participation in the 12th annual Panerathon earlier this month in Youngstown, in which about 35 team members rallied around her.

MDIDC is an aggressive type of invasive ductal carcinoma, which is the most common form of the disease in women, according to www.breastcancer.org. Symptoms include a lump under the arm, skin irritation, pain, swelling and thickening of the breast or nipple.

In December 2020, Henderson noticed swelling under her arm while swimming, an activity she performed several times per week. When she received her regular mammogram the following month, Henderson’s doctor wasn’t alarmed initially, but an ultrasound revealed something was amiss before the results of a biopsy came back positive for cancer.

“It was a big game changer,” Henderson said, adding that her doctor called to confirm the diagnosis.

During her first surgery earlier this year at the Joanie Abdu Comprehensive Breast Care Center in Youngstown, four lymph nodes were removed, all of which tested positive for cancer. She also had an aggressive tumor in her left breast, Henderson noted.

The first procedure failed to remove all of the cancer, so a second lumpectomy was needed several months later. Nevertheless, some of the surgical margins, or tissue, were still cancerous, so in mid-May, she began the first of eight rounds of chemotherapy that lasted 16 weeks, which Henderson and her husband, Gary, assumed would take care of any remaining cancer cells.

On Sept. 28, however, she underwent a third surgery, this time a mastectomy to her left breast at the Cleveland Clinic. After an MRI revealed a “spot” that indicated a possible tumor, 12 additional lymph nodes were removed from under her arm, nine of which tested positive for cancer.

It wasn’t until her left breast was removed that the doctors said, after surgery, she would be cancer-free, because margins came back negative this time and the nine cancerous lymph nodes had been removed, as were any tumors that could have still been in the breast, Gary explained.

Brenda’s next major step will be radiation treatments at the Joanie Abdu Center.

For the radiation, a new, state-of-the-art machine will be used that can more accurately pinpoint the location of any remaining cancer and minimize the chance of collateral damage to the heart or elsewhere, she explained.

“It’s just emotional. You can’t believe you’re going through all of this. I know I just have to do it. It’s one step closer to being cancer-free,” after the radiation

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