Local breast cancer survivor shares story, talks about the importance of mental health and support

Local News

A breast cancer diagnosis can bring a mixture of emotions, including depression and anxiety. Today, we share the story of a survivor who not only had to fight physically but mentally as well.

“The doctors told me that there was nothing I could have done differently,” said breast cancer survivor, Dusty Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says she’s a stickler about her health. Eating healthy foods, exercising and staying on top of health screenings, which pushed her to get a mammogram at the age of 40.

“I already had it scheduled at that time, and everything turned out just fine. But I do a lot of reading to make sure I’m up on all different kinds of topics, and I read a magazine article that indicated a symptom that I had never heard of before, which was some dimpling,” she said.

A couple of months after her first mammogram, she noticed that same symptom she casually read about. Zimmerman says she didn’t feel a lump in her breast and neither did her doctor. But after a second screening…

She added, “The next thing I know he’s calling and saying it is cancer. I think he was surprised as anyone.”

Not only was she dealing with a new cancer diagnosis, but all anxiety that comes along with it. The National Cancer Institute says 1 in 3 people with cancer experience mental or emotional distress. It’s most common in breast cancer.

“Mental health is a little trickier because everyone does that from their perspective and has a lot of different life things that are guiding that mental health,” said Jenene Kittleson, Oncology Nurse Navigator at Trinity Health.

Not to mention the fear that the cancer could come back.

“Before that, if something is wrong, you think, ‘Oh, maybe it’s something serious’ and then it never is, until it is. So you kind of live your life a little bit differently afterward,” added Zimmerman.

Zimmerman says the support of her family and her friends, and her faith got her to where she is today — three years cancer-free.

She said, “It does feel really good to know that the journey really had a purpose and hopefully I am able to share for the rest of my life about it and help other people make sense of things, that doesn’t always make sense.”

Zimmerman says knowing those unfamiliar symptoms, as well as early detection, are important, as well as talking to someone while dealing with cancer like a therapist or support group.

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