Brenda Hubert has two things to thank for her status as a breast cancer survivor: that little voice in her head and a mammogram.
"I was thinking, 'I don't want to do it. I'll just put it off.' But I've had it done every year since I was 40, so I thought, 'Oh, just get it done!'
"And the mammogram found it." Infiltrative lobular carcinoma, Stage 1, and in two lymph nodes.
Brenda, an 8th grade history teacher at Granger Middle School, was diagnosed May 1, 2018. "They caught it early enough that I just had radiation — four weeks and that was it. If I had put it off until fall it probably would have been Stage 2."
Brenda, 57, had a lumpectomy and 2 lymph nodes removed in July 2018. "I thought, oh crap, I'll have to stay in the hospital, but I didn't. My surgeon Dr. (John) Kisala was great. So was my oncologist at North Star Lodge, Dr. (Siva) Mannem, my radiologist, Dr. (Cheryl) Davison, and my nurse, Brandy (Stevens).
"When I first met Dr. Davison, she sat down and looked straight at me. She drew a picture of my breast, where my tumor was, where the lymph nodes were and where they were going to do the radiation. I was really impressed."
Brenda finished radiation treatments in September 2018. Two months later, though, her left side felt hot. It was red. Brenda called Dr. Davison, who told her, "Get up here right away." Brenda took two courses of antibiotics: The infection was stubborn. In January, she saw Dr. Davison again and she determined that Brenda had lymphedema (Swelling that generally occurs in one of the arms or legs. It is most commonly caused by the removal of or damage to the lymph nodes as a part of cancer treatment.) Brenda was referred to the Lymphedema Clinic right inside North Star Lodge. She now wears a compression vest to encourage the fluid that has built up inside her chest to move (imagine wearing Spanx all the time!).
"I nag people at work to get to `Ohana (Yakima Valley Memorial's Breast Health Center). I wouldn't go anywhere else, seriously. I tell my friends, 'They have coffee. They have tea. There's water in the lounge.' I've always had good care there."
Brenda is struck by the what-ifs.
"I feel blessed by God," she says. "And I had great support from my family and my school. You know, I've been teaching there so long some of my former students are now teachers there!
"On the day of our 8th grade recognition assembly, I noticed a lot of the kids were wearing pink. That's odd, I thought. Then I went into the gym and there were all these pink balloons. I asked one of the students, 'What's all the pink for?' She said, 'Dur, Miss. Hubert!' I broke down and cried.
"Then, on the last day of school, I got called down to the gym. The whole staff was in there wearing pink T-shirts that said, 'Nobody in this family fights alone.' They really are my family.
"In the end, I feel so lucky. It was all because I was like, 'You. Gotta. Go. Get. That. Mammogram.' "