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With no family history and no noticeable lumps, Diane Rekar had no reason to be concerned about breast cancer. At 41, the mother of two was working as a nurse at the Air Force Academy and was well versed in all of the cautionary tales about breast cancer.
“A good friend who worked at a breast care clinic kept nagging me to get a mammogram,” Rekar said. “I finally said ‘Fine, how long will it take?’ She assured me it would only be about five minutes.”
After being at her appoinment for over an hour and a half, Rekar realized something wasn’t right. “You just know,” she said. Doctors performed a biopsy and MRI screening and found six separate tumors in her breast tissue.
“I chose to have a double mastectomy,” Rekar said. “Because of my job, I knew the surgeons and that gave me comfort – like I wasn’t entering this unknown world on my own.”
All of Rekar’s treatment was done at Penrose Cancer Center, part of the Centura Health Cancer Network, delivering advanced, integrated cancer care across Colorado and western Kansas.
“Joan Lunden said it best: You are thrown into the breast cancer world and life takes you down a path you can’t redirect,” Rekar said.
Rekar is thankful she was cared for so well. “Penrose was absolutely fabulous,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for better care. Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers is basically a one-stop shop, and that makes it much easier.”
A radiation oncologist determined that no radiation was necessary. “It was good to know that the doctors really wanted what was best for me,” Rekar said.
Just finishing her sixth and final round of treatment, Rekar is looking forward to getting back to her life before cancer, despite having to take pills for the next five years. “I’m very healthy and recovered very well,” she said. “No one knew I was sick until I lost my hair.”
According to the American Cancer Society, most women who develop breast cancer do not have a family history of the disease. “More people with no family history are starting to speak up,” Rekar said, hoping that will help get the word out for every woman to get regular mammograms.
Even as a nurse, Rekar said she was still more focused on people who have an evident link to cancer. “It’s all still sort-of surreal,” she said. “I have a daughter and I know this is going to affect her.”