Annual Luncheon to honor Breast Cancer Survivors

Every October, to recognize and honor "Breast Cancer Awareness Month", Dr. Jensen and his wife host a luncheon for former and current breast cancer patients. This year our luncheon was held at the corporate offices of doTERRA International, and included speakers LeAnn Lopour, a breast cancer survivor of 16 months; Rep. Mia Love, R-Utah; and Stephanie Nielson, plane crash survivor, bestselling author and blogger.

"Sometimes as physicians, we forget what these women are going through emotionally, so this luncheon is kind of a reminder to us as well," says Dr. Mark Jensen. "Every patient has a unique life story that inspires us. We wanted to find a way to recognize what they have overcome. The bond we have with these patients runs deep having walked with them through an extremely difficult time. It is great to see them healthy and stronger people than they were before. This luncheon becomes a reunion of sorts, one that is growing each year."

An important aspect of the annual luncheon is participation in our "Pay It Forward" project. Luncheon attendees (survivors) write down their treatment experiences, emotional struggles, advice, and any encouragement they can offer to Dr. Jensen's newly diagnosed and future breast cancer patients. These hand written notes of encouragement are put together with a small gift, donated from local businesses, and are given out to Dr. Jensen's new patients throughout the upcoming year. It's a great way to connect survivors with those who are just starting their cancer journey.

Our annual Breast Cancer Luncheon is an event we look forward to every year. There is an energy of hope and triumph, accompanied by a fighting will to live, that permeates the room. Everyone in attendance feels it and leaves the luncheon feeling uplifted and supported. 

Dr. Jensen says, "I am grateful for the chance to help my patients feel good about themselves and to feel whole again. This is a very fulfilling and rewarding job. I am honored by the stories I hear every day. Life can be great, despite the trials and hardships. I feel so blessed to get to know each and every one of my patients and become one of their supporters on their very difficult journeys."

Prophylactic Mastectomy with Reconstruction, a.k.a. the "Angelina Jolie Surgery"

Have you heard of the "Angelina Jolie Surgery"? Chances are that you have if you've read the news sometime in the last two years! The Hollywood star known for her movie roles and timeless beauty underwent a genetic test that confirmed a BRCA1 mutation, which gave her high odds that she would develop breast cancer at some point in her life.

Jolie said in a New York Times article she wrote, "Only a fraction of breast cancers result from an inherited gene mutation. Those with a defect in BRCA1 have a 65% risk of getting it, on average."

BRCA Gene Mutations Commonly Associated with Breast Cancer

BRCA genes (both BRCA1 and BRCA2) are an indicator showing certain mutations that are commonly associated with either breast or ovarian cancer. BRCA1 mutations can produce a lifetime risk of breast cancer ranging from 45% to 87% and of ovarian cancer ranging from 31% to 63%. By any stretch of the imagination, these are high risks of potentially-deadly cancers.

Angelina Jolie went public with her decision to undergo a nipple-sparing prophylactic mastectomy and reconstruction. Her procedure involved removing all breast tissue and reconstruction with silicone implants. A bilateral prophylactic mastectomy reduces the risk of breast cancer in women with high risk BRCA1 mutations by at least 90%.

Dr. Jensen Offers Patients Risk Reduction Plastic Surgery

With the advances in medical research, specifically breast cancer research, Dr. Jensen is able to offer his patients risk reduction surgery and reconstruction. In many patients the surgical incision made is not much bigger than an incision used to do a cosmetic breast augmentation.

Mother/Daughter Duo Shares Their Story of risk Reducing Mastectomy Reconstruction

Meet this mother/daughter trio, prophylactic mastectomy reconstruction patients of Dr. Jensen. With their permission we share their story. Because of a strong family history of breast cancer the Mom decided to undergo BRCA testing so her family could make more informed decisions about their own healthcare. This is what she has to say about it, "After my positive BRCA test, surgery was not even a question. To undergo a complete mastectomy would greatly reduce the chances of getting breast cancer. My kids had the same genetic mutation and I needed to lead the charge, as they were both watching me. BRCA can scar you both physically and mentally, however Dr. Jensen was very reassuring. He answered all my prayers. I'm so grateful for modern technology, as it has given me the opportunity to do everything we can to prevent breast cancer."

Her two daughters decided to undergo prophylactic mastectomies with reconstruction as well. One daughter said, "After watching my mom and then my sister go through the mastectomy process I didn't feel like I had anything to worry about. It wasn't until I set the date of the procedure that all the questions, doubt and horror stories came to mind. 'Am I too young for this?' was the biggest question I asked myself. Then I thought, 'Cancer probably doesn't think I'm too young.' That was my answer. The next question I thought a lot about was, 'I'm not married yet or have kids, so am I going to miss out on anything?'. The answer was, 'Is it worth possibly getting cancer?'. It's not. I plan to live a long, happy and healthy life. This surgery helped me get there."

The other daughter said, "I am 25 years old, I'm a mom of two beautiful baby boys, and I tested positive for BRCA1. A mastectomy just makes sense, you would think. Unfortunately feelings and logic do not always line up. I changed my mind about 10 times a day, every day, until my surgery date. When my Aunt died of breast cancer just 1 month after my first surgery I have never regretted my decision. Having my sister and my mother going through the same things with me was amazing, empowering and brought us closer than ever. We all feel so blessed."

While Angelina Jolie may be the new poster woman for BRCA testing and prophylactic mastectomies with reconstruction, Dr. Jensen's office has seen a lot of brave women battle the same decisions and questions in regard to their health. These women could also be the poster faces of undergoing this procedure and doing everything they can to lower their risk of getting breast cancer.

In a recent medical study it was noted that women that had undergone prophylactic mastectomies with reconstruction said they wish they had known it was less traumatic and less painful than they had anticipated. Prophylactic mastectomies may not be for everyone. There are several ways to reduce your risks of developing breast cancer. Proper screening and early detection are key elements to improved survival rates.

"I did not let cancer define me or take what I love from me"

Want some guidance from someone who has truly "walked the walk"? Meet Libbie, Valerie and Nicole. They are a mother/daughter team and are offering us their sage advice. They know more than just a little something about breast cancer, because they have had a very personal fight against this disease. Two of them were diagnosed with breast cancer and have undergone surgeries, chemo and radiation. And one was not going to let cancer eventually take control of her life based off of her strong hereditary chance to get this disease, so she underwent preventative surgeries. This is what they have to say:

Question: What would be your advice to someone who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer?

"I would tell people that you cannot 'fix this' yourself. Let others in. Trust in the Lord and count all your many blessings. I would also tell them to find the best doctors, ones that they feel comfortable with. Trust in them, but also be an active participant in the decisions that are being made and if you don't feel right about something to speak up."

"Keep your head up! It's shocking and discouraging but it doesn't' mean 'the end'. Know that it will be hard, but you can do it!"

"It is important to talk to the people you know because chances are there are several people that they know who are going through the same thing. I have been able to help several people find answers that they were seeking because I was willing to share what I was going through. Also, attitude is EVERYTHING! A good attitude can make this process so much easier and can help you heal MUCH faster!"

Question: What is something you are most proud of during your breast cancer journey?

"I am proud of the education I have learned of so many things. I have learned that there are so many good people who love and care about others, including me. These people are family, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, and even strangers. It has taught me to believe in the goodness of mankind. And reaffirmed that as I try to serve others that I do not think of my own problems and I am happier. Other personal lessons I have learned is to delegate, after years of being really bad at it. I've learned to relax and take time to appreciate everything and everyone around me, and to count and enjoy all my blessings. I gained the ability to accept the outcome of what I delegated and not let it drive me crazy when it didn't get done the way I would have done it. I am proud of the peace I have found through this ordeal. To have faith in the Lord's plan and time table…Come what may…and love it!"

"I am proud that I didn't let this diagnoses 'define' me. I can remember shortly after my diagnoses my Mom and I went to the drugstore and bought a big pill container - you know the one that has M-F a.m. on one side and the p.m. on the other side. I looked at the container and I said, "I don't want this. It says REALLY OLD or SICK and I am not old and I am not sick. I just have something I have to do - an obstacle to overcome." This is how I felt and the mentality that I carried - I'm not sick, I just have some challenges to get through. Yes, there were times due to the chemo when I was very sick. I had to leave my home, my husband and my 2 children and let my Mom and Dad take care of me. But when that week of being sick was over, I went right back to life. I went home and I cooked dinner when I could, I spent time with my husband, and I took care of my kids. I did not let cancer define me or take what I love from me."

"I wasn't diagnosed with breast cancer, but I am very proud that I made the decision to be aggressive and take control of my life before breast cancer took control of it. My risk was pretty high so I made the decision to go ahead with the bi-lateral mastectomy even though my health wasn't immediately at risk."

These women are great examples of not just surviving, but living a full life with a positive attitude. Thank you for your gems of wisdom!