Jantzi, only 25, suspected she had breast cancer when she found the lump in her left breast, the one that her 4-month-old son Hayden was refusing to nurse from.
Both she and her younger sister know they’re at risk because of their mother’s bout 10 years ago with the same disease. Even so, they’re considered too young for routine early-detection procedures, which aren’t as effective with younger breast tissue.
“They didn’t even find mine in a mammogram,” Jantzi says. “I’d never heard of it hitting someone this young.”
A lumpectomy revealed Jantzi had invasive ductal cancer. It was a shock, she says, “the worst news of my life."
"The bad thing about the whole phrase is 'invasive'," Jantzi says. It means the cancer can spread, sometimes rapidly, to other parts of the body.
Because the biopsy showed cancer cells at the cut edge (margin), she needed more surgery, which included removal of several lymph nodes. She chose to have more breast tissue removed rather than the entire breast. "It was my choice. I'm too young to lose it; it's part of me."
After her surgery, she participated in a Southwest Oncology Group clinical trial testing variations in aggressive chemotherapy. This led to "dizzying" weeks of daily chemo.
"I wanted to get the worst part over with," Jantzi says with a rueful grin. The woman whose hair once cascaded to the middle of her back still sports a bald pate, and her five-year-old son Brodie insists on honoring Mom with his own super-short cut.
The planned spring 2009 wedding to fiancé Luke Moore is postponed. “I didn’t want to get married bald,” Jantzi says. Moore was working on an out-of-town job during much of her treatment, but her best friend Amanda Ekwall, with three children of her own, was a rock of support.
Jantzi would leave her South Kitsap home and drive to meet Ekwall, who lives at Naval Submarine Base Bangor. “She would pile all five kids in the car and take me to chemo,” Jantzi says. “With the summer, I had to put sunblock on my head. We made fun of it.”
Jantzi, the youngest chemo patient at the time at both of Harrison’s Hematology & Oncology centers (in Bremerton and Poulsbo), bonded with other patients and caregivers alike. She still stops by to visit with the nurse at each facility who saw her through the ordeal.
“I loved my chemos,” she says. “Having that one nurse with me most of the time—it made it awesome.”
Radiation therapy at Harrison’s Radiation Oncology center in Bremerton went equally smoothly. “I’ve had no problems,” says Jantzi, who finished her treatment Dec. 7.
It was a rough year, but Jantzi was back at classes by the fall, finishing radiation, ready for the postponed externship, thinking new wedding plans. And Hayden, a long-limbed toddler with a quiet sweetness, is walking. “I could never ask for any more in my life,” she says.