Brenda Allen faced the fight of her life — breast cancer. She found support in those who have traveled this road before. – darnews.com

Posted: October 29, 2020 at 8:59 pm

By MARK J. SANDERS Contributing Writer

Brenda Allen, her mother, her sister and a first cousin were all diagnosed with breast cancer over a three-year period.

DAR/Paul Davis

Brenda Allen considers herself fortunate to be a successful survivor of breast cancer, and shes using the lessons learned through her path to recovery to make the most of her life every day.

Brenda, 62, is married to Tom Allen, and both of them are well-known and well-loved retired teachers from the Poplar Bluff R-I School District.

Brenda taught in a number of different roles and locations for 34 years, including music at the elementary and fifth and sixth grade school, vocal music director at the junior and senior high, SINGS instructor, grant administrator and administrator at Lake Road Elementary and Poplar Bluff Junior High.

She first learned of her cancer diagnosis seven years ago, in July 2013. While seeing her doctor for an ear infection, she remembered that her mother had recently had a mammogram, so she decided to do the same on that day.

Her mother was also diagnosed with breast cancer, and Brenda said it was a contributing factor in her mothers eventual passing.

After her doctors visit, she left town for a trip, and when she returned home, she found she had received many unanswered calls from Kneibert Clinic.

I was pretty sure the news was not good, she said.

The mammogram revealed a lump that was thought to be contained within a milk duct. She chose to go to the St. Lukes Hospital Womens Center in St. Louis, where she saw the same doctor as her mother for a needle biopsy.

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The biopsy verified the cancer diagnosis, and Brenda was scheduled for a lumpectomy. However, the procedure revealed the cancer was not contained and was more invasive than initially detected.

She was away on another trip, this time to Dauphin Island, Alabama, when St. Lukes called with the bad news about the lumpectomy results. When she returned, she underwent a bilateral mastectomy in September 2013.

This time, the results were much more positive. She needed neither chemotherapy nor radiation as a follow-up to the surgery, and her lymph nodes were not affected, either. The only follow-up treatment was hormone therapy for the next five years.

I was very fortunate, she said. Im likely to put some things off, but women need to take their mammograms seriously.

Although she described her recovery from surgery as relatively easy I went back to work a week after she did undergo genetic counseling. Brenda, her mother, her sister and a first cousin were all diagnosed with breast cancer over a three-year period.

In doing extensive research on her family tree, Brenda discovered her mothers aunt and that aunts granddaughter had both died of breast cancer. The granddaughter was only 35 at the time of her passing.

Brenda was tested for all possible genetic markers indicating further risk of future cancer, but they all came back negative. She described this as a big relief not only for her but also for her own daughter and granddaughter.

After five years of follow-up screenings, she was released as cancer-free.

Brendas advice for other women facing their own breast cancer diagnosis is to not go through any of it alone.

Every woman has a friend who has been through this, she said. Brenda had a close friend who had already survived breast cancer, so she called and asked her to be her cancer mentor.

Youre overwhelmed with all the information the doctors give you, and you dont always know what it all means, she said. You need a friend who can walk with you down that road.

One way Brenda was enjoying retirement this year was to hike the Katy Trail in mid-Missouri. She said the experience of losing her own parents, her in-laws, and a close uncle over the past seven years provided strong motivation to stay active and reach for her goals.

Speaking of her loved ones who have passed, she said, They all spoke of things they wanted to do and said, I wish I had done that.

Hiking the Katy Trail was something I always wanted to do, but I still can.

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Brenda Allen faced the fight of her life -- breast cancer. She found support in those who have traveled this road before. - darnews.com

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