Vernetta Jarvis lives a charmed life, disguised in a series of health irritations that evolved over the past year, right after retiring from a CPA firm.
First she pinched a nerve in her arm playing with her dog. After eight weeks of physical therapy, she was good as new.
Then came a stomach infection. Antibiotics patched her right up after three weeks.
And then she received a call about her routine mammogram. The surgeon saw a good deal of calcification in the breast tissue that looked suspicious. “I have had call backs before, so I was absolutely confident that everything would be fine.” And in fact, the biopsy did come back fine.
Even so, the surgeon recommended removing the tissue, given that the cells could turn into cancer. Jarvis agreed, figuring it was best to take the prudent course and not have to worry about it.
In the process of surgery, however, it turns out she had cancer in the outer margins that wasn’t captured in the biopsy.
“It was such a shock,” recalled Jarvis, 66. “It took a day or so for it to sink in: You’ve got cancer and you have to do something about this.”
A year before, Jarvis' mother had a similar experience, finding cancer on the outer margins on her biopsy, and she opted to have the double mastectomy. But Jarvis chose instead, with consultation from her doctors, to do a lumpectomy and radiation.
“The big C word carries a lot of fear with it, but I’ve adopted a saying from an old friend: ‘I don’t care what I get, as long as it can be fixed.’”
Since it was so early and wasn’t in the lymph nodes, no chemotherapy was required. And her family was very supportive and calm, acknowledging she had a plan to address it.
The surgery was done at TMC, in the new surgical suites. That experience, along with her experience in the TMC for Women Breast Center, was positive, she said. “Everyone was very nice, very accommodating. They just seemed to care about you.”
Although there was some fatigue associated with radiation, she’s rebuilding and getting ready to resume tending to her backyard rose bushes, as well as doing the sewing and needlework she enjoys.
Jarvis said she hopes women take advantage of preventive measures like mammograms. “It’s such a simple thing to do and you have such better chances of catching it early when it’s treatable, and when doctors can say, ‘It’s easy. We can do this together.’”