1. What is your name, age, and background?
Jacki Dargen, 56 years old. I’m a Mom of three wonderful kids, Ashley 34, Ryan 32, and Kelsea 27, and I also have two amazing stepsons, Drew 34, and Max 29.
2. When were you diagnosed and at what age?
I was diagnosed in December 2014 at age 53.
3. How was the cancer initially detected? (i.e. through a BSE, a CBE or an annual mammogram)
It was after I had my regular yearly pap smear and breast exam. Dr Ebert found a lump in my left breast and he wanted to schedule a mammogram for the next day. They also did a biopsy on my left breast to see if the lump was cancerous. It was benign, but my right breast was covered with DCIS, which is Ductal Carcinoma In Situ. That news came to us on our wedding anniversary December 31, 2014. Talk about poor timing!
4. How did you feel when you first received the news?
After the diagnosis, I was shocked, never thinking that this would happen to me. But my husband, Paul, and I have a very strong faith and we trust God’s plan to guide us. We know that He always is present for us.
5. Is there a family history of breast cancer?
No one in my family had a history of breast cancer, but my mother had uterine cancer after I was born.
6. Did you have a support network? If not, how did you overcome it or find it?
I have an AMAZING support group! My family and friends are so wonderful and supportive. They have been with me through my recovery process and some pretty tough times, like the obstacles that I faced with the diagnosis in 2010 of an auto-immune disease. I have Scleroderma and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Both of these can be really painful diseases, and many doctors were trying to find a medication to help me with the pain. I have tried a couple of different medications, but nothing really helped long term.
7. Tell me about your treatment process.
We talked and prayed about my situation, with some amazing medical professionals in Stillwater and in OKC. We selected a surgeon and team in the Mercy network on Memorial Road. I decided to have a bilateral mastectomy with reconstruction at the same time. My first surgery was on March 23rd, 2015. I had the mastectomy with expanders. My second surgery was on July 29th, 2015 to remove the expanders and have the implants put in. Finally, my third surgery was on February 1st, 2016 and I had nipple reconstruction. I am very pleased with my decisions and results. We chose to be as aggressive as we could with procedures and treatment. Thankfully no radiation or chemotherapy was required as the “margins” were good. I truly believe God was present with them in that operating room and guided my surgeon.
8. Were there any programs or services offered to you that would help with the treatment process?
I recently have been going to a wonderful doctor that helps with pain management and he has helped me SO much! I can’t believe how amazing I’m doing at everything! I feel like a new person now. I am back in the gym, I’m working out at home, and I’m finally living the life that I have wanted for such a long time.
9. Did you face any obstacles during your treatment process? If so, how did you overcome these obstacles?
If I had any obstacles at all, it would have to be that I would start to feel better and I would try to start working out, getting into a routine, then I would need another surgery. It just took a really long time to get to the point that I am at now.
10. What message would you like to provide women in the community?
My advice to anyone diagnosed with cancer or other life challenges would be is to have faith and talk about it!! This can be one of the scariest things to happen to a woman, but just know that there are many sources available to you. Don’t give up, find a friend – or even your doctor – to talk to.
11. How does health and fitness play a role in your life today?
My husband goes to the gym 6 times a week, and I would feel so bad that I couldn’t go with him. I am so proud of him!! Now that I’m feeling much better, I am making a promise to myself and my husband that I will do whatever I can do to get healthy and I hope to join him in the gym more and more!!