Jackie Fox used to wonder how she would react if she was told she had cancer. Then it happened two years ago.
"I was shocked to hear the 'c' word but not surprised, if that makes any sense," said Fox, a Minot native who now lives in Nebraska.
Fox said she's not sure how a person can prepare themself for the news that they have cancer.
This is the cover, designed by Janie Harting, of Minot native Jackie Fox’s book about the challenges of stage 0 breast cancer.
"The biggest advice I can give anyone is to give yourself time to think. You're going to be faced with a lot of decisions and choices, and you may feel like you have to act right now. Trust me, you don't," Fox said.
Fox was diagnosed with DCIS which stands for ductal carcinoma in situ. "In situ" means "in place" and DCIS is confined to the milk ducts. "It's technically classified as stage 0 cancer," she said.
Her doctor explained to her that DCIS is so early stage it's classified as stage 0. But it can become life-threatening if not treated, and treatment is the same as for more aggressive cancers.
Fox's journey with cancer has resulted in a book she has authored "From Zero to Mastectomy: What I Learned And You Need to Know About Stage 0 Breast Cancer."
"I hadn't seen any books specifically talking about DCIS or stage 0 breast cancer. I never heard of it until I was diagnosed," Fox said. She said she also talked with others, including health-care public relations people who hadn't heard of it either.
Fox just learned that Library Journal, the biggest nationwide book reviewer for libraries, named her book one of the Top Consumer Healthcare Books for 2010. The book is available through the major online retailers Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million and bookstores.
To publish the book, Fox formed her own publishing company, Honyocker Press.
She also has a blog
12545954741484); and done speaking engagements about the book and her experience with cancer.
Fox, the former Jackie Fredrich, was born and raised in Minot. (Her brother Jerry lives here.) She graduated from Minot High School in 1974 and has a journalism degree from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Fox is a media relations manager with HDR, an architecture and engineering firm based in Omaha. and has been with the company for nine years. She and her husband, Bruce, live in Gretna, a town just outside Omaha.
Fox learned she had cancer when she had a mammogram.
"Well, technically the biopsy confirmed the cancer but the mammogram is what spotted the suspicious area basically, a cluster of bright white specks which could be calcification or could be cancer. Then I had a second mammogram on that breast, followed by a biopsy to confirm that it was cancer," she said.
Fox is very comfortable talking about her diagnosis, treatment and breast reconstruction which are covered in her book.
She stressed that having mammograms done is very important so DCIS can be caught early and dealt with before it becomes invasive.
"It's very important because mammograms are the only way you're going to catch DCIS it's too early stage for there to be a lump that you can feel so a breast self-exam won't help. DCIS can turn into invasive cancer if you don't treat it. I was told I had a 50/50 chance of mine become invasive," she said.
"I mentioned giving yourself time to think-that's also very important," she added.
Fox said the typical ways DCIS is treated are through breast-conserving surgery (lumpectomy) followed by radiation, or mastectomy. "No chemotherapy that's used when cancer has spread," she said.
"Another thing specific to women with stage 0 cancer/DCIS is you may compare yourself to women with stage III or stage IV and think you don't have the right to call yourself a survivor. I felt kind of sheepish about that for awhile. But you do have the right to call yourself a survivor.
"The treatments you go through and the emotions you feel are the same as they are for more advanced cancers. And when you decide on your course of treatment, do what's right for you and don't worry about what other women have done. Your goal is to be at peace with your decision and not second-guess yourself. It took me awhile to make peace with getting a mastectomy, but once I did I've never regretted it.
Fox is now cured. "My doctor told me I'm cured thanks to the mastectomy but I am taking Tamoxifen, a drug that prevents cancer from reoccurring in the other breast. I will be taking that for five years," Fox said.
Fox's mastectomy was done on July 15, 2008. "So I'm roughly 2 1/2 years out. I have to follow up with my oncologist twice a year. If I had invasive cancer it would be four times a year. My family doctor also stepped me up to twice a year instead of once a year. I guess I'm on the 'watch list,'" she said.
Fox said she appreciates life more now
"Getting breast cancer made me realize just how much I have to be grateful for-the fact it was caught early so I'd have a good outcome, my four remarkable doctors (they contributed a Q&A chapter to my book), my husband, family and friends," she said. "I gained a huge amount of respect for doctors and the practice of medicine. I really like my family doctor, we've been seeing him for 17 or 18 years but mainly once a year visits."
Fox has done an educational event with her general surgeon and oncologist, and another one just for her for the library in her community. She said she would like to do more events where she can talk with other women about her experience and they can share their experiences.
"Cancer gives you a front-row seat to the medical profession, and it was a really interesting experience," Fox said. "Cancer even turned into a weird kind of muse - I used to write poetry but had stopped for almost 20 years. I started writing again while I was going through this, and I'm very glad to have that part of myself back."
She said she has realized she's very lucky she didn't need chemotherapy or have advanced cancer but in her case, the good far outweighed the bad.
"You can find unexpected moments of humor and even joy. In my book, I compared it to a summer vacation, only instead of going to Napa Valley I went to medical centers in Omaha. The souvenirs are a little different instead of a wine glass you get a breast implant card. And let's say it rains on your Disneyworld vacation. You can dwell on the rain or on the cool ponchos they hand out and the fact that the short lines for rides. It's up to you," she said.