Boxing back breast cancer for 18 rounds
Bartha: ‘Everything came back negative — until it wasn’t’
That moment many women experience when they first feel a lump in their breast can be one of the most difficult for them to deal with.
Getting a second opinion, making the call to the doctor’s office and waiting for the result of further testing can be excruciating.
Getting a breast cancer diagnosis is life changing.
Dawn Bartha, 50, of Monett, recently dealt with that exact process.
In October 2020, she felt a lump in her left breast.
“I asked my husband to check it and he said he felt it to,” she said. “I frequently do 3-D ultrasound mammograms and have had several biopsies. I was at the three-year mark of a 3-5 year waiting period between tests.”
She went to get a biopsy, but this time the results came back different.
“It was positive for cancer this time,” she said. “Just two weeks later, they put in a port, and two weeks after that, I had my first chemo.”
Because breast cancer ran in her family, Bartha had testing done to determine the cause of the cancer.
“Surprisingly, I tested negative for genetic cancer,” she said. “The doctor said it was environmental.”
Bartha will receive a total of 18 rounds of chemotherapy.
“I have three rounds left,” she said. “My first was on Nov. 6, 2020. I take them every 21 days.”
Bartha had a double bilateral mastectomy with expanders put in.
“That postponed my chemo for a little bit,” she said. “Then, the expander on the right side got infected. I just got it put back in about a month ago.”
At almost the very end of her chemo treatments, Bartha said the first round was definitely the worst of all of them.
“They call it a loading dose,” she said. “It is double of everything. I get a total of five different kinds of chemo because of how quick-growing it is.”
The doctors believed Bartha would have cancer in her breasts and in her ovaries, but thankfully, her ovaries were fine.
“I lost my hair in December 2020 after the third chemo treatment,” she said. “My hair was almost down to my bottom, and I decided to cut it up to my neck. It was a very harsh treatment.”
Martha said the combination of the mastectomy and the hair loss were very hard to deal with.
“I had never really had short hair,” Bartha said. “I was in the shower and I was just pulling out handfuls of hair and crying. I was a triple-D bra size before, so seeing myself after the surgery was horrible.”
After the mastectomy, when expanders were put in, Bartha got a severe infection that grew three times its original size in just a day.
“Then, I had a reaction to one of the chemo treatments,” she said. “It is not an easy journey — I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.”
As of now, Dec. 10 will be her last chemo treatment.
“The doctors said I won’t get a cancer-free diagnosis until 5 years [from then],” she said. “I will continue to fill the expanders until I can get my implants. That would be in January or February. Then, hopefully, I am done with this.”
Bartha, will take a estrogen blocker “chemo pill” for 5-10 years.
“Everyone says that you really take that pill for the rest of your life though,” she said. “The hardest part of all of this is the diagnosis itself.
“I said I would never fight it, because I watched my mom fight it.”
For Bartha, it was her daughters who changed that outlook.
“One told me I was going to fight, and my other daughter found out she was pregnant,” she said. “I had a grandbaby, a boy. I got to spend the first week of his life with him.”
For advice, Bartha said she would tell women to do their self checks.
“Especially if you have a family history,” she said. “I got my first mammogram at 25, well before most women do. I have had 5-7 biopsies, and everything came back negative — until it wasn’t.”
Dawn Bartha has a gofundme for her medical bills at https://gofund.me/2bc3af1c.