October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
When Shannon Brinkman read the results of her breast biopsy on the medical imaging facility’s portal back in 2020, she couldn’t decipher the whole thing because of the medical jargon, but there was one word she understood completely.
“You can’t understand a lot on the portal, but you remember the word ‘malignancy,’ ” she recalled.
Shortly after she remembers feeling immediately nauseous from her head all the way down to her toes. It was a whirlwind that started with a lump she felt in her breast in July 2020, only nine months after receiving a clean mammogram. Then after a subsequent mammogram, MRI and biopsy, she found out the news, that she had early-stage breast cancer.
“I was numb,” she recalled. “We were working from home at that point. After I got off the phone, I had my husband call back so he could hear everything that was just said. My mind was everywhere, all over the place.”
Brinkman is the director of Tutoring and Transitions at SCC. More than 15 years ago, her mother, Kay Benson, also went through breast cancer. Imagine finding out your daughter would have to go through the same thing.
“I felt terrible,” she said. “The first thing I thought was, ‘oh I must’ve passed it on to her.’ It was a very emotional time for us.”
Their story is not unique. According to breastcancer.org, one in eight U.S. women will develop breast cancer over the course of her life. This year alone, close to 288,000 new cases are expected to be diagnosed. Of those women, around 43,250 are expected to die this year. However, death rates in women over 50 years of age have decreased by 1% per year from 2013-2018. Experts think it’s because of advances in treatment and earlier detection.
“I believe early detection is so important,” Brinkman added. “I learned how lucky I am that I found it early. Lincoln has amazing doctors, and I had great care.”
After Brinkman had a partial mastectomy, which took some time to get scheduled because it was during COVID, she went through seven weeks of radiation. She also had to go by herself to the appointments because of the pandemic, another hardship on top of everything else. Besides confiding in family and close friends, she kept her diagnosis mostly to herself. She coped by journaling and took part in online support groups.
“I was a basket case. That’s what I remember,” she recalled. “That first year was hard. I feared it was coming back. I was also told by many people the first year was the hardest. Now I don’t have that fear every day like I did then.”
In 2021, a year after her diagnosis, she decided to take part in the Making Strides of Lincoln fundraiser for the American Cancer Society held annually at Holmes Lake. By doing this, she made her battle with cancer public, which wasn’t easy for her as she doesn’t like being the center of attention.
“It was hard because I’m a very private person, but I had to put myself out there,” she said. “I decided that I should use my voice to raise money for it. I had a goal of raising $500, and we raised $2,500.”
Brinkman said she was surprised by some of the people who supported her during this time, people who only knew her from work and tennis, and they came up to her and asked how she was doing and if she was OK. That meant a lot to her; more than they will know. She encourages other people to do the same if it happens to a friend or acquaintance.
She plans to walk again in this year’s Making Strides fundraiser on Oct. 16 and hopes to surpass last year’s fundraising numbers. If you’d like to donate, click on this link: https://www.facebook.com/donate/762150171544343/10228813284539848/