Breast cancer survivor shares ordeal
Jereczek: 'I thank God all the time'
Getting a diagnosis of breast cancer is the last thing a woman wants to hear.
Breast cancer survivor Carol Jereczek of Cassville heard it, even though she had absolutely no history of the disease in her family.
Jereczek was born and raised in northern Missouri near Blythedale before living in Ventura, Calif., for over 30 years. When her husband, Bill Jereczek, retired in 1984, they moved to Cassville. The two had three children, two daughters and one son.
"I was not at all concerned, as I am
the youngest of eight children and there was no cancer in our family, my parents or grandparents," Jereczek said.
She had a normal mammogram in May 2004, then another in September 2005, four months late. Afterward, the Breast Center in Joplin called her back in for a biopsy.
"I was terribly worried since I had been four months late in getting my mammogram," she said. "My biopsy showed cancer, and then it hit me and I fell apart."
Jereczek said she remembers doing a lot of praying during that time. Her husband, a four-time cancer survivor, was very supportive, along with her children, family and friends. During that time, she remembers receiving a lot of calls and letters from everyone, but her husband was her biggest supporter of all.
"He was my rock," she said of her husband, friend and partner of 56 years, who passed away last year. "When they called me back to have another mammogram and biopsy, I was so sure that I wasn't going to have cancer because it's not in my family. My husband was a big part in this, and he assured me everything would be OK, and I just took one day at a time.
"Anytime I started getting down, he was right there and helped me. But, we both agreed to have my breast removed."
Fortunately, the cancer was in its first stage, so it had not gone into her lymph glands.
"The doctor said in my case, it was probably a very good thing, as my tumor was small and had I gotten a mammogram when I was suppose to it might not have showed up, and then a year later, who knows how large it would have been," she said. "I did not have to have radiation or chemotherapy since I had my breast removed."
Throughout her ordeal, Jereczek remembers how much it helped when a friend came to stay with her.
"Bill was working, and I had no one to stay with me," she said. "He and the kids were worried about me being home alone. One of my girlfriends from California heard I had breast cancer. She got on a plane and flew here and stayed with me two or three weeks."
In August 2007, Jereczek had reconstructive surgery.
"We knew the surgeon, as he had operated on my husband and had a lot of faith in him, which really helped," she said.
Today, Jereczek remains cancer-free and goes back for checkups every six months. Plus, she continues to have her yearly mammogram, which she encourages every woman to make a priority.
"October is breast cancer awareness month, and I really do believe it helps to remind women how very important it is to have their mammograms, and I do believe there are strides being made to defeat breast cancer," she said.
Jereczek says her best piece of advice to women dealing with cancer or those in remission to remember to thank God every day.
"I thank God all the time," she said. "What else can you say? I do believe God and prayers really help."