A Second Chance at Life

At just 35 years old, Laurie Barkdoll had everything to live for- a happy family, two children and long life ahead of her…until one day, things changed.

“It was 2009 in September and I was putting on my bra and I slipped my hand down and I felt like a lump or bump there,” said Barkdoll.

Though she had no family history or any other risk factors for the disease, Laurie went to the doctor and heard the news she never thought possible, she had breast cancer. The bad news didn’t stop there, Laurie was diagnosed with a rare form called triple negative breast cancer.

“The breast cancer cells are dividing and multiplying and they are not multiplying and dividing due to hormones in a woman’s body, or due to a protein called HER2. So if a woman is triple negative it means that those things aren’t causing the cell to grow and multiply, so we don’t know why that cell is growing and multiplying, we don’t have the research yet to figure out exactly why triple negatives are occurring,” said Jill Wozny, Breast Cancer Navigator at Edward Hospital Cancer Center.

Just 10-20% of those diagnosed with breast cancer have the rare form the triple negative, a statistic that had Laurie come to Edward Hospital’s Cancer Center, which she believe saved her life.

“I set up a second appointment with Dr. Hantel and he had a clinical trial that I fit into that actually involved a drug that I thought was something that could help me with my rare type of cancer,” said Barkdoll.

Laurie’s treatment regimen involved chemotherapy, drugs and the her own decision to have a double mastectomy.

“I was young, my cancer was aggressive, I had two kids I had to take care of and I didn’t want a lifetime of having mammograms, having scares, MRI’s, I just wanted them gone,” said Barkdoll.

Six years later, Laurie is cancer free, and free to experience the little joys of life. But she doesn’t stop hoping for others who may not be as fortunate as her.

“I feel incredibly lucky to be cancer free, I have some guilt because I have lots of friends that didn’t make it and its very hard because I’m living and watching my grand-daughters grow up and they’ll never get to do that. We need more research to cure stage four patients so they can live with this disease instead of dying with it. Just appreciate everyday you have because things can change like that,” said Barkdoll.

Though the age at which women should begin getting mammograms has been the subject of some controversy in recent years, there’s no doubt that the simple test can help save lives. The procedure has helped reduce breast cancer mortality in the U.S. by nearly a third since 1990.

Naperville News 17’s Alyssa Bochenek reports.

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