By Jill Penley
While every woman of a certain age knows an annual mammogram is recommended, sometimes it has to hit home for us to realize the real importance of doing so. Such was the case for Nancie Svensen, travel specialist, and owner of Customized Travel in Mountain City. Reeling from the recent loss of her best friend to cancer, she decided to schedule
a mammogram in her honor.
“I had been fairly consistent about getting it done annually,” said Svensen, “but recently things had gotten in the way, and it was put off for about a year.”
Svensen stresses there is really no excuse for not getting them. “It’s not that big of a deal,” she said. “Our own Johnson County Community Hospital has excellent imaging equipment, which was a recent project of our own Johnson County Community Hospital Foundation. There’s little wait, and everyone there is so pleasant.”
Svensen had had several previous screenings, and related “little lumps and bumps had been detected before,” even to the extent a biopsy was warranted several years back, which came back benign. This screening and its results would be different.
According to the American Cancer Society, a woman living in the U.S. has a 12.4 percent,
or a one-in-eight, lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer. Each story is certainly unique, but Svensen describes her journey as “remarkably positive.”
“Blessed with good fortune, wonderful family and friends, experience and comfort with doctors and hospitals, an appreciation of what I can do and what is out of my hands, and an incredibly strong faith that Heaven is a better place, fear never entered the picture,” said Svensen.
Thus armed, her journey began. The little shadow captured via mammography was indeed
“My wonderful local physician was the first to let me know gently,” said Svensen.
Fortunately, the lump was tiny and seemed to have been caught very early. “Later the radiology team in Johnson City was exquisitely caring and thoughtful,” said Svensen, recalling when they sat with her and her husband Bjorn to review details and options.
“My first decision was not to hide it,” she said. “We had been invited out that evening, and there, I told my friends and added that it wasn’t a secret; they could feel free to share with others if they wanted.”
Svensen’s friends and family offered support, and her two sisters sprang into action.
“Living out of town, they insisted I come to stay with either one of them while dealing with
this,” she said.
Realizing she was facing a “marathon not a sprint,” she agreed. “Teams were assembled, appointments were made, the car was loaded, and husband, dog Lucy and I were off,”
exclaimed Svensen, who stresses teamwork is tremendously important on so many levels.
Medically, she was introduced to a huge network of medical professionals and facilities. Svensen will be forever grateful for the support of family and friends.
“They housed us, fed us, loved us, shared perspective, listened to us vent, and kept us entertained,” she said, and knowing she would be away for a while and would need assistance upon return, a small team of friends agreed to help around the house by watering flowers, getting the mail, and doing yard work during her treatment.“When anyone asked what they could do, prayer was always the first request,” said Svensen, “and trust me, it really worked. I had a lot of prayers seeing me through this, and I felt it.”
One lump turned out to be two and then three. Bilateral lumpectomies revealed that it was not one kind of breast cancer but two, and the sizes of the lumps were larger than expected, but Svensen and crew kept the faith. “What a sense of humor the Lord has,” she stated. “He kept moving the finish line!”
A number of options were presented including everything from removal of the lumps followed by chemotherapy and radiation to a full bilateral mastectomy.
“No one told me what to do but rather carefully explained the options and left it up to me to decide,” said Svensen. “For me and my situation in life, the answer was clear, and proceeded with some very major surgery.”
Months later as she and her husband were sitting with her oncologist, Svensen recalls asking how many years it would take to be declared free from cancer.
“We were shocked by her answer. She said I was cancer free right now, even using the word cured!”
Gratitude is a major player in the Svensens’ lives. “We are grateful for so many things,” she said. “First of all, grateful to God for everything, and we tell him that frequently! Bjorn and I are grateful for each other, our family, friends including neighbors, and for our sweet dog Lucy.”
She also expresses gratitude for the community support. “We’re grateful for our beautiful town and all the wonderful people in it,” said Svensen. “We’re grateful for the outstanding medical team with which I was blessed, and we’re grateful for the