Tallahassee nurse battles breast cancer while pregnant, shares journey during Breast Cancer Awareness Month
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, a Tallahassee nurse and breast cancer survivor is sharing her journey, advice, and words of wisdom after battling the disease.
Denna Hunter is one of hundreds of thousands of women who have been diagnosed with breast cancer in the United States.
Denna, a registered nurse at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare was in her early 30s and 34 weeks pregnant with her second child when she discovered a lump in her breast.
“So what if this isn’t a clogged milk duct, what could it be? And of course, as being a healthcare professional, I knew that option of cancer was certainly a possibility,” said Denna.
Denna had to undergo a biopsy and later she found the news.
“I got a call later that evening that when I driving my two year old to ballet class that of course my biopsy came back as malignant,” she said.
One of Denna’s doctors, Dr. Karen Russel says gestational breast cancer is more common than we think.
“We define it as during pregnancy the year post-partum as well as during breast feeding. One in 3000 of those women are diagnosed with breast cancer during that time period and so she was part of that group being diagnosed in her third trimester,” said Dr. Russell, an oncologist at TMH’s Cancer Center.
Denna’s doctors had to induce labor and she gave birth to a healthy baby boy, and after his birth began her first rounds of chemotherapy.
“Knowing that I was induced so I could start chemo was a bittersweet moment. I was really excited to meet my baby but then I knew I had this whole battle that I was getting ready to fight,” said Denna.
During her battle with breast cancer and while undergoing chemo, Denna was able to keep most of her hair with an innovative tool, a cooling cap.
“After I got my infusion port put in I had big stitches and my two year old saw that and she just lost it she was so upset, seeing those incisions with stitches and I was thinking how is she going to react when mommy loses all her hair,” said Denna. “I had to change this cap on my head every 20 minutes so that my scalp would continuously stay negative 35 degrees during my chemo.”
Denna says the cap helped her change her outlook on battling cancer.
Today, Denna tells WCTV that she is in “cautious remission” and while she still has to get checkups every few months, there is now no evidence of cancer in her body.
And get this, Denna gave birth to her third child, a baby girl on July 8th of 2020.
The date is two days after her two year chemo anniversary.
Denna is encouraging women that if they are too young to get a mammogram that they make sure they do self-exams every month.
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