Diana Friedline of Indiana is into her second breast cancer diagnosis, and possibly a third with new developments, but still going strong.
She was originally diagnosed with breast cancer in the summer of 2000 when she was living in New Jersey and teaching high school in New York.
“I had surgery in July 2000 for a right side masectomy and had an implant at the same time,” Friedline said. “I had chemotherapy through the fall, and in December I had to have the implant removed because it was infected.”
Because she was taking a blood thinner, Friedline did not have an easy reconstruction and finished her chemo the following spring.
Friedline was involved in a serious car accident during Christmas 2003 and had to have heart surgery – a mitral valve implant.
After five years of medication for her cancer, she figured she had survived and could go back to teaching.
In 2010, Friedline retired to Pennsylvania and moved in to care for her disabled sister in Indiana.
“My mom was dying of cancer, and my brother died the first week I was back,” Friedline said. “Doctors discovered a second tumor in my sternum. My breast cancer had metastasized to stage four 12 years after my first. I thought I was healthy.”
Friedline has a history of breast cancer in her family from an aunt and great-aunt.
She has gotten 38 radiation treatments at Dr. Dorcas Clark Women’s Imaging Center at Indiana Regional Medical Center, where Friedline said she has received excellent care.
Friedline is involved with several cancer support groups at the center and is especially pleased with nurse navigator Susan Majoris, whom she considers a good resource.
“She has a boob camp that is an excellent 12-week program,” said Friedline, now 61. “I can’t tell you how helpful it’s been. It’s good to have a good cry and figure out what you have to do.”
Friedline said she is doing well, but is not comfortable with recent news from her oncologist that there could be an enlarged lymph node on her left side that shouldn’t be there.
Her blood markers for cancer are good, but have been slowly elevated over the last year.
At first, Friedline thought she would want a second masectomy, but has decided to monitor her condition with ultrasound.
“I am well, with a level of precaution about something doctors are detecting, but have not yet determined,” Friedline said. “Hopefully, all will be good. I feel well, work out at the gym, do physical therapy and am working on weight loss as preventative measures.”
Her mammogram shows her newest growth is benign, but Friedline knows mammograms don’t always catch everything.
“The first time, it was close to my chest wall, and the second time, close to the sternum,” she said. “I know there’s a clear connection between stress and cancer, but I’m happy, and the therapy is calming.”
Used to doing type A adrenaline-pumping work in her careers as high school teacher and in print advertising, Friedline is enjoying her retirement.
“Cancer is scary,” she said. “You don’t see it, and you don’t feel it. You count how much time you have left. There’s no guarantee.”
Ruth Rice covers Features for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow her on Twitter at Twitter.com/