Please help me welcome today’s SurvivHER Amber Dankert. Amber is a wife, mother of two daughters Alexa and Kalyn, and works at her local State Farm Agency in Lincoln NE. *Amber participates in the Relay For Life of Shelby County with her family each year. Please take a few minutes to read her story as she is in the thick of her cancer journey that started this past spring in the midst of the pandemic.
“I was all set to have a great vacation to Vegas in February when I found a “lump” the Tuesday before we left on Thursday. While we were gone, I kept thinking about the “lump” and what it might be. By the time we got home, I felt I needed to contact my Dr.. I was able to get an appointment for a mammogram later that week. February 27th is a day that will always stick with me. From the mammogram the “lump” became a mass, and a biopsy was scheduled for three days later, a the first Monday of March. When the biopsy was taken, the Doctor thought the results would be “a benign tumor” due to the texture. By Wednesday of that week the pathology report had different results. I was diagnosed with Stage II Ductile Carcinoma.
I had NO IDEA how may Doctor appointments it would take to get started with treatments. It all was such a whirlwind of appointments, meeting with an oncologist, a surgeon, all the labs, scans, and calls to the insurance company filled every free minute I could find. I was working full time, had two daughters ages 8 and 12 with all their activities, and now I have cancer. My husband and I sat down with the girls and told them that I had cancer. We ae lucky to know two Breast Cancer Survivors, and used their experiences to try to ease their minds and remind them that they went thorough treatments, and the treatments worked, and we expect the same for me.
In the middle of all of this, the pandemic hit and our worlds just STOPPED. School stopped, work stopped, but my cancer did not. I had to go to all my appointments alone. I was alone for the Bone and CT scans. I had to go have my port implant surgery alone. I had to go to my first, and every Chemo appointment alone. This was so hard as there were so many unknows, so many things to process, and so many questions to ask, and answers to hear alone. Having a supportive home full of EXCELLENT caregivers was more important than ever! My daughter made me signs of encouragement after appointments and they meant so much to me!
I started chemo on April 9th. A schedule was set for chemo treatments every three weeks for six treatments along with weekly blood draws. This would take me into August. It seemed so far away when I started, and of course there were bumps along the way. My blood platelets dropped too low to receive treatments, so the plan had to be extended. Chemo was tough! I had infusions on Thursday’s, and it would take the rest of the weekend to feel human again. Due to Covid-19, the girls were having “Virtual Learning” and I was able to continue working, but working from home, so trying to find the balance with everything on top of having days of “sickness” was something I had not mentally prepared for. I was able to find that my appointments were really the only time I really had to just myself. Time to process, time to rest, time to reflect. As everyone was home the entire time, it became a little break that I looked forward to.
Now that that “rough” phase of chemo is over, I have started a new regimen of two different drugs every three weeks for six more treatments, but this one is so much easier. I am not as sick, my platelets don’t drop so low, and my hair is coming back. I have eyebrows and eyelashes now, and my hair is coming back, but it is coming back Grey! My hair dresser says it needs to be a little longer before she can color it. For now I am fine with it, as I spent most of the summer bald, and makeup less, which is TOTALLY NOT my personality. Another blessing from the pandemic…the only place I went was to the Dr., and they understood.
When I was getting all the testing done, I also had genetic testing done. I was BRACA positive, which puts me at a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancers. Since I was diagnosed with Breast Cancer so young, I decided to have a double mastectomy later this month (October 21) and will hopefully have a hysterectomy next year, when I have built up more sick leave time.
The one thing that helped me the most was having a positive attitude. I tried VERY HARD not to get down or think too much about “what could happen”. I was able to stay active, helping the girls with school and working full time. Keeping a routine was key for me. There just wasn’t time to go down those scary rabbit holes! I also found a group of younger Breast Cancer Survivors in Lincoln who post regularly and then try to get together in person once a month. Due to the pandemic this was not an option for me, but I really liked getting to know them and having someone to talk to. If anyone wants to visit with me, I am more than happy to talk things through, and support each other through a difficult time.”
If you would like to make a donation to Breast Cancer Research in Ambers honor, please click her link above.