Shawna’s Story

Diagnosed: July 29, 2015
Age at Diagnosis: 43

Hi. My name is Shawna Romine and I would like to share my cancer story with you. I hope it changes your life.

I thought I knew a lot about breast cancer before my cancer was diagnosed. My Mom had had breast cancer. I had been a part of Think Pink and donated time, money and energy to many breast cancer charities. I, also, have worked at MD Imaging for the past 14 years and understand how important it is to have yearly mammograms.

I did all the right things and I felt I really knew a lot.

But, the part I never understood was that Stage 4 breast cancer could not be cured. I had naively thought that all breast cancers could be cured. It is a fact that 98% of breast cancers are curable if found in the early stages. I was scared to find out I had cancer, but I was even more terrified by the word “incurable”. The good thing is that incurable does not mean untreatable.

My story began last year in early July 2015, when I went to see my chiropractor. During my adjustment, two of my ribs were injured and I was asked to return for a follow up in two weeks. There was a lot of pain in my ribs and lower back over the next two weeks. Right before I returned to see the chiropractor, I had been feeling along one rib that was painful and I noticed a breast lump. So, I made an appointment to see my OB-GYN that next week.

When I returned to the chiropractor I explained that I thought that my ribs were broken, as I was in a lot of pain. The first thing the chiropractor asked me was if I had had a recent mammogram.

A recent mammogram? Me?

This question made me extremely nervous. I had recently found the lump but had just had a normal mammogram only six months prior. My visit to the OB-GYN resulted in a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound. The results of these two tests led me to a core biopsy on July 29, 2015 by Dr. Ewa Bauer at MD Imaging and at the age of 43 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Dr. Vicki Philben, my surgical oncologist, recommended a lumpectomy and radiation treatments to follow. The lump was small, only 1 cm with no lymph node involvement. But, there were more tests to be done. My bone scan revealed abnormalities in the spine and ribs which then led to an MRI scan. The MRI scan showed extensive metastases to the bone. In just six months from the date of my annual mammogram, cancer had spread from my breast to my entire spine, five ribs and my pelvis.

The lumpectomy was cancelled, and I was told that I had Stage 4 breast cancer and that it was incurable. I was then referred to Dr. Ajay Verma, Medical Oncologist. Dr. Verma set my mind at ease. He did not give me statistics. He gave me encouragement. He referred me to have a surgery on my lumbar spine called kyphoplasty. One of the tumors had eroded the bone so much that it was broken. My bones were brittle. This procedure greatly improved my pain.

Dr. Verma also scheduled me for six months of intensive chemotherapy. The chemotherapy was difficult, but it was the chemotherapy, along with Dr. Verma’s positive attitude and expertise that saved my life. I looked at chemotherapy as the healing medicine I needed to take to be able to get back to my life.

I will always have cancer. At least that is what I have been told. But, now I choose to look at my cancer diagnosis in a very positive light and I plan to live for a very long time. Before I was diagnosed, I took my life for granted. Now, I appreciate every minute of it and everyone in it.

People can amaze you with their caring and compassion. I have the most terrific husband who took such good care of me and I am convinced that I would not be here today without him. Chris, you are my hero. Through it all you helped me to stay positive and you make me laugh every day.

I have been inspired to become a better person just by seeing what people are capable of doing to help out a co-worker in need. My caring team at MD Imaging has been awesome. Thank you, especially to MariJo, Barbara and my book club friends. You are all amazing. Also, I will always be grateful to Dr. Ewa Bauer for helping me through the diagnosis. I am blessed to know her.

I have received excellent care from the most wonderful staff at Mercy Regional Cancer Center and have met many wonderful people in my support group: Living Better with Cancer at Mercy Regional Cancer Center. I do not know where I would be without their advice and encouragement. They have become my friends and I admire their strength. I am stronger and more joyful because of all the amazing people in my life.

18 weeks have now passed since my last chemotherapy. My hair is finally growing back. I still battle many side effects of the treatments and I will have to take medications for the rest of my life that will keep the cancer from spreading. But, I am actually happier than I have ever been. I was able to go back to work and just love to be able to help people.

My work at MD Imaging is so much more than “just a job now” as I have more understanding of what it is like to be a patient. When I look into a patient’s eyes, they are my eyes, and I understand how frightening it can be. I am able to give hope to women and men who are scared to have annual mammograms or breast biopsies. I remain positive and optimistic. I appreciate more. I stress less. I am so grateful for my life and for those in it.

Chris, I love you more than you could ever understand. You have walked beside me and with me on this journey and I am so grateful for you and for your incredible love.

To those of you who are fighting cancer, please remember that our glasses are always half full; definitely not half empty.

Stay strong and Stay hopeful.

Take good care of yourselves and enjoy every moment of your life.

Thank you for letting me share my story with you. I truly hope it changes your life.

Shawna Romine

Breast Cancer Survivor: Shawna