From the article on rrstar.com:
When Nina Jacobson went in for her annual ob/gyn exam one month after her mother’s funeral, the unthinkable happened.
A lump was discovered in her breast, and when sent for further testing was diagnosed as breast cancer.
“It’s was almost like it wasn’t real life. It was like a Lifetime movie or something,” Jacobson said.
Jacobson’s mother, Penny Jacobson, had battled breast cancer more than a decade earlier, when Nina was in high school. After aggressive treatment, doctors believed they’d gotten everything and Penny could go on to live a normal life.
But when severe back pain in 2012 drove Penny to various medical specialists, they discovered the cancer had returned. This time it spread to her bones, and it would eventually go to Penny’s liver and lungs. She died at age 70.
“Our whole family is extremely close, mom was my person,” Nina said. “I never thought she wouldn’t be here right now.”
Penny went through extensive treatment and had a strong support network of close-knit family and friends. Nina was by her side through it all offering strength and unknowingly learning how to battle the disease.
“I walked into (my own) treatment the most-educated 29-year-old they’ve probably ever encountered,” Nina said. “It’s the only way that I know to do it. (My mom) did so amazingly. People had no idea she’d been sick for the past three years. She just had so much grace and so much poise.”
Nina and her older sister, Mindy Schideman, promised their mother they would get genetic testing to check for breast cancer risk. Penny’s sister and other Jacobson relatives also have died from breast cancer. It seemed in their family it’s not a question of “if” you’ll get breast cancer, but “when.”
The average woman in the U.S. has a 1 in 8 chance of developing breast cancer in their lifetime. Everyone has the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes, but women who have abnormal BRCA genes can have up to an 80 percent risk of a breast cancer diagnosis. Breast cancers associated with abnormal BRCA genes tend to develop in younger women and more often in both breasts.
The ATM gene helps repair damaged DNA, but someone who inherits an abnormal ATM gene has a higher risk of breast cancer (and pancreatic cancer).
Nina’s diagnosis came before that testing could even happen, but both of them still got it. Mindy carries abnormal BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. Nina has the abnormal BRCA and an abnormal ATM gene.
Mindy, who has two young children, underwent a preventative double mastectomy.
Nina and her now-fiance Nathan decided to do egg harvesting to help if they encounter fertility issues down the line, but then she quickly went through aggressive treatment. Nina had a double mastectomy and went through 16 rounds of chemotherapy.
“There was never a moment that Nina felt bad for herself,” said longtime friend Heather Stoner. She recalls Nina took her mother’s diagnosis harder than her own.
“Penny was just her whole world,” Stoner said. ”(During her own treatment) she just really missed Penny. Missing your mom makes it all so much harder. That was the only time I heard Nina complain through the whole thing.”
Stoner, a women’s health nurse practitioner, has been friends with Nina since middle school. “She’s somebody who will always try to make you see the good side of things,” Stoner said. And if there’s any positive that can come from this, Stoner said it’s made her push her patients harder than ever to be vigilant about annual exams.
“And every month do the exam yourself,” she added. “The big picture is that if you do it every month you’re going to know what’s normal for you, and then you know if something is not right.”
Mindy said she was struck by her sister’s strength during the treatment, just as she was by their mom’s.
“I know it’s important for them to try to get the message out to others to get testing done, if you have the ability, so you can have as much time with your family as possible,” Mindy said.
Nicole Washington of Roscoe is a longtime friend of both Nina and Mindy.
“Nina is seriously one of the strongest people I know,” she said. In high school, Nina was a cheerleader and was a base on the squad, Washington recalled. “She was one of the ones picking up others around her. She’s always there is you need someone and would do anything for her friends.”
When friends and family organized fundraising events to support Nina’s cancer fight, it surprised no one that the turnout was huge. People wanted to return the kindness Nina, Penny and the whole family has shown to others over the years.
Nina is rounding out a year during which, at times, she felt more like a science experiment than a woman. But she still believes there’s got to be a reason why this all played out the way it did.
“I’ve been told to live life as I did before, though obviously I will be monitored super close for the rest of my life,” Nina said.
So Nina is looking forward now. She’s waiting for her hair to grow back and planning her wedding for October 2017, though that’s another event where she will miss her mother beyond words.
“This whole journey has been humbling for me,” she said. “I’ve learned that in a really confused world, there’s so much good.”
Make a donation to the Susan G. Komen Foundation here.
Learn more about breast cancer prevention, detection and treatment here.