Positive attitude buoys Pawleys Island resident through 2nd breast cancer battle

Health
Jennifer Evans, a Pawleys Island resident, has twice beaten breast cancer.

Jennifer Evans, a Pawleys Island resident, has twice beaten breast cancer.

Jennifer Evans couldn’t believe the diagnosis.
Breast cancer. Again. She’d already been through this once. And she was just weeks shy of hitting the five-year mark since her first battle with breast cancer, which she considered a major milestone in her post-cancer life.
Facing breast cancer twice is unusual. Most women who’ve had breast cancer don’t get cancer again. But you won’t find Evans dwelling on her bad luck. She can’t help but look on the bright side.
Coupled with compassionate care from a physician she trusts, her positive outlook only helped as Evans persevered through her second diagnosis and emerged cancer-free.
“Attitude has a tremendous amount to do with it,” Evans said. “If you can’t do anything about it, don’t let it control your life. That has helped me tremendously. There are certain things you have no control over. You have to take what life throws at you and work through it.”
And life has thrown more than a fair share of obstacles at Evans, a retiree who made her vacation destination her home when she moved to Pawleys Island about a decade ago.
Evans always had dense breasts, which have more connective tissue than fatty tissue and pose a higher risk for developing breast cancer. Because of that, she started having regular mammograms in her 20s, much younger than the recommended age of 50 for women without a family history of breast cancer or other risks. Women are more susceptible to breast cancer as they get older.
“Mammograms are the standard of care, for sure,” said Dr. Angela Mislowsky, Evans’ physician and a breast surgeon at Tidelands Health Breast Center, the region’s only surgery practice dedicated solely to breast health. “It’s one of the easiest things women can do for their health.”

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Breast cancer runs in Evans’ family, which put her at a higher risk for the disease. Her sister and daughter have successfully undergone treatments. One of Evans’ aunts wasn’t as fortunate; her cancer wasn’t caught early and she lost her battle with breast cancer 15 years ago.
Evans always made sure to get her yearly screening.
“I never skipped mammograms,” Evans said. “They are not a comfortable thing to have done, but it’s a necessary thing. It is a momentary bit of discomfort that could save your life, so do it.”
It was through her usual mammogram that doctors discovered her first breast cancer six years ago. In her trademark Evans way, she handled the diagnosis matter-of-factly and kept her usual positive outlook.
She received radiation treatments, coupled with the support of her loving family and the compassionate care of the Tidelands Health specialists she trusted to guide her treatment, especially Dr. Mislowsky.
“When you meet her, you just feel like you’ve known her for years,” Evans said. “I would adopt her if she didn’t have parents.”
After a successful radiation treatment, Evans got mammograms more frequently – every six months. Each time, the mammogram showed no problems. Pretty soon, she was back to getting the screening every year.
“I figured I was clear,” Evans said.

Jennifer Evans started having regular mammograms in her 20s, much younger than the recommended age of 50 for women without a family history of breast cancer or other risks.

In 2017, she was approaching five years since she was diagnosed, excited to celebrate the milestone that doesn’t have much medical significance but still is celebrated by many cancer survivors.
Her routine mammogram ruined the celebration. Another lump.
“I was disappointed to have almost made it through the five-year period,” Evans said. “But you have to look on the bright side.”
Dr. Mislowsky worked closely with Evans to determine the best option moving forward. Aspects of a patient’s life can influence the choice of treatment – factors such as raising a child with special needs, caring for an elderly parent or needing transportation to receive treatment. Treatment must fit with the patient’s lifestyle, Dr. Mislowsky said.
“We need to know these things,” she said. “We are taking care of the whole patient, not just the cancer.”
After discussing treatment options with Dr. Mislowsky, Evans chose to have a mastectomy, which removes all of the breast tissue, in late 2017.

“I was all for it,” Evans said. “I didn’t want to mess with having to worry about it coming back.”
A year later, Evans hasn’t had any issues related to her breasts.
“It’s really been smooth sailing,” she said. “I healed nicely, and evidently I have a beautiful scar.”
She’s embraced life after the mastectomy, opting to be fitted for a prosthetic that is weighted appropriately.
“I feel like I have both my breasts,” Evans said.
In addition to having a positive outlook, Evans encourages others facing a breast cancer diagnosis to find a doctor who they trust to guide their treatment.
“Find a doc that you have confidence in that you like,” Evans said. “You don’t have to second guess them. You can feel confident in their advice.”
Evans said she trusted her care with Dr. Mislowsky, who continues to see patients at least every year after their successful treatment. It’s rare that the cancer returns in the same person.
“It’s unfortunate that some people have to go through this twice,” Dr. Mislowsky said. “It’s not very common. We don’t see it a lot.”
Not many women like Evans who have been diagnosed with breast cancer twice would consider themselves lucky. But Evans – the eternal optimist – does. After her breast was removed, more lumps were evident, which may or may not have led to more problems if she had opted for treatments instead of the mastectomy. She sees that as a sign that she did the right thing.
“Really, I consider myself lucky,” Evans said.

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