Staff Photo/ Courtney Luke
Ian and Monica Edmonds of Bernie have supported each other throughout Monica's battle with breast cancer.
"Be your own advocate" points out 37 year old Monica Edmonds of Bernie, a breast cancer survivor.
"I have had mammograms every year since I was 28 years old because in my family, we have a strong history of cancer." She explained that her health insurance company originally denied paying for the procedure, but she fought until they agreed to the charge.
"I wanted to be able to protect myself."
In January 2011, doctors told Monica that her mammogram was clear and to return in one year, but in September, while getting ready for work, she noticed dimpling in her left breast. She visited a local doctor the next day and after verification of the abnormality was referred on to breast cancer experts in Cape Girardeau.
A biopsy confirmed her fears and she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Monica explained that because all the cancer victims in her family had died from the disease, she felt as if it were her death sentence. But all of that soon changed. She visited a friend and fellow breast cancer survivor Becky Dennington and was able to put a face to a survivor and that helped give her the courage to begin her fight.
When her young daughter had fears, she was encouraged by another breast cancer survivor Tommie Ellenburg, the elementary principal at Bernie School.
Friendship, family as well as a growing faith are the things Monica says helped her. Her husband Ian and her in-laws took a proactive approach to the situation. The family established a separate bank account so the bills could be paid without Ian or Monica needing to be concerned over regular day to day needs.
True to her aggressive approach, Monica chose to have a double mastectomy.
"I did not want to have to worry with every mammogram whether or not it was missing something."
Even though she had for several years scheduled mammograms and been faithful to medical exams, it took checking things out on her own in order to find her illness. Edmonds explained that it is important to get mammograms, but sometimes they miss things. Had she not been paying attention to her own body, by the time of her next mammogram, which was several months away, the cancer may have spread too much to be helped.
Through chemotherapy, radiation and several surgeries, Monica and her family have grown closer together and their faith in God's power has increased.
"I believe God prepared me," she revealed. Monica is a registered nurse, and only seven months before, she had assisted breast cancer patient and Malden resident Ashley Smith with some medical processes. That allowed her to be exposed to some aspects of the disease that even though she was a nurse, she had not been around before. She also spent several months reading a blog which Bernie native Becky Dennington had written. Monica relayed that often as she was reading, she would say to her husband, " I can't imagine that happening." Unfortunately, it later did.
She also says that the community around her was very supportive sending gifts, donations, doing things for the family, praying and holding fund raisers. Her gratefulness to her community and church family is apparent.
Throughout the entire ordeal, the one person who showed her the most support was her husband Ian. She said that in all actuality, the illness was probably harder on him than anyone else, including herself.
"He had to stay strong. He had to let me cry and be sick." The activities of the three children the couple share still had to be taken care of, bills still had to be paid and business had to be accomplished. According to Monica, all that rested on Ian's shoulders and he did an amazing job.
Breast cancer affects one in eight people and is not necessarily specific only to women. Men have also acquired the disease. Many who have no family history of breast cancer can become victims of the disease.
According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most common cancer among American women. About 1 in 8 (12%) American women will develop invasive breast cancer during their lifetime. The oraganization estimates that in 2012:
About 226,870 new cases of invasive breast cancer will be diagnosed in women.
About 39,510 women will die from breast cancer
Monica has some advice for others, both men and women- take your medical care into your own hands and be aggressive.