As a math teacher, Jennifer Crane knows all about statistics and calculating the odds, but cancer is a disease that doesn’t really care about such things.
Three years ago when Crane was diagnosed with breast cancer she realized the odds may not seem to be in her favor, but through early detection and a team of doctors, health care providers and family and friends, Crane is today doing remarkably well and is living her life to the fullest.
“One of my doctors’ told me if there was ever a poster child for the need for mammograms starting at the age of 40, I would be it,” Crane said while sitting in her classroom at Smith-Cotton. “It was right before the start of my oldest son’s freshmen year in high school and I had gone to the base clinic at Whiteman for my annual checkup.
“They told me since I was 40 it was time for a mammogram so in mid-June I had the test done at the Imaging Center at Bothwell Regional Health Center on Thompson Blvd.,” she said. “A week or so later I got a call asking me to come back because there was a suspicious area.”
Crane said she went for her second mammogram, also at the Imaging Center.
The mammogram showed several tiny spots and Crane was told, “This is specious.”
She was scheduled to see Dr. Joseph immediately to schedule a stereotactic biopsy at Bothwell Regional Health Center.
The equipment, at the time rotated from hospital to hospital and within two weeks Crane was scheduled for the procedure.
“It’s a different type of procedure,” Crane explained. “There is a ring of needles that pulls small core tissue samples out of the breast.
“They don’t insert a single needle,” she added. “In my case there was never a single lump found, instead there were specs like tiny grains of rice.”
Crane was diagnosed with Stage 0 High Grade DCIS (Ductal Carcinoma In Situ)
Her cancer was contained in the milk ducts and was not found in the tissue or lymph glands.
“I was told that it’s a type of cancer that can be serious, if not treated, even at a Stage 0 since it was high grade,” Crane said “In July, I was scheduled for a lumpectomy.
“The reports came back that they had gotten it all with clear margins,” Crane said. “But then we had to discuss my treatment because if this came back it tends to be invasive.”
Crane met with Dr. Matt Triplett and Dr. William Decker at the Susan O’Brien Fisher Cancer Center at Bothwell to plan out the next steps in her recovery.
Both Triplett and Decker agreed that Crane should have 30 rounds of radiation and she began taking tamoxifen.
“My first radiation treatment was during my first week of the new school year,” Crane said. “The doctors and staff at the hospital were very understanding of my schedule and so they would let me have the last appointment of the day.
“I would leave school and go to the hospital to get zapped and then go and get ready for the next day,” she said. “At first it was no big deal but midway my treatments I became really tired and fatigued.”
As a teacher Crane felt she had a responsibility to her students so she would leave the hospital, prepare lessons and grade papers but by seven in the evening she was exhausted.
“I can honestly say there is no better place to work than the Sedalia School district, everyone here was so helpful and understanding,” Crane said. “The teachers and staff would make meals for me to bring home and they were so good and didn’t require much work to prepare.
“My sons really stepped up too,” she added. “My husband had retired from the Air Force and was finishing barbering school so it was hard for him to not be there at my diagnosis; I was really stubborn about that, and I insisted he not miss any class time.”
Crane credits the support of her husband, steve as a major factor in her recovery throughout her ordeal.
“My husband is my best friend and always had a shoulder for me to lean on,” Crane said. “He kept me going from day to day especially when I was fatigued from some of the radiation.”
The couple’s sons, Zac and Gage each reacted differently to the news of their mother’s illness.
“Both boys are blessings but when this happened Zac became the angry child,” Crane explained lovingly. “He was upset but that was his way of showing his concern; he became my mother hen.
“Gage who was in grade school became very clingy and went into panic mode,” she added. “If I would sneeze he was worried, he probably was more worried than he needed to be but they were both so sweet and understanding.”
The support of the family’s church, St. Paul’s Lutheran, was also a blessing to the family as they were always supportive and looking after the family.
“I don’t think I can ever thank all of the people who helped us through this,” Crane said. “The radiation gals at the hospital and the nurses were so nice and caring.
“I am so grateful that I was able to receive my treatment here and that I didn’t have to go out of town,” she added. “Three family members on my mother’s side have been affected by cancer and my mom’s sister was diagnosed earlier with the type of cancer that I have.”
Crane said she spoke to her aunt a lot and that she had been very helpful as were her mother and sister who do not show any signs of breast cancer.
Today, Crane sees Triplett every six months and Decker once a year for follow up’s.
“I think I am much more aware of my health,” Crane said. “It was scary when I received the initial diagnosis because there was no lump in my breast.
“I always kept a routine throughout all of my treatments and I never missed a day of school,” she added. “I have a positive attitude and with my faith in God I believe I won’t have to travel down this road again.
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.