Newnan, Ga. (October 1, 2013) – A few short months after Jennifer Bentley moved to Newnan, Ga. for a job transfer, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer. Away from her family and still new to town, Bentley relied on community programs and support groups to help her navigate through tough times.
In October 2012, Bentley found a visible lump by her armpit during a self-exam, prompting her to get a screening. When she received her mammogram, she noticed that the suspicious lump looked dense and was covered with specks, yet Bentley remained optimistic waiting for her results.
“I watched as patient after patient emerged from their ultrasounds with good news and I thought, ‘These women are all okay, maybe my results will be good, too,” said Bentley.
Despite her optimism, results revealed she had an aggressive form of triple negative breast cancer, for which she underwent surgery and chemotherapy. Only eight months earlier, Bentley lost her brother to heart disease and the thought of telling her mother that she, too, had a life-threatening illness was nothing short of terrifying.
During treatment, another blow struck Bentley’s family when her husband lost his job.
Bentley, who often felt too ill to go out in public, managed to continue to support her family by working from home while her husband looked for a job. Still, the money wasn’t enough to keep Bentley’s family afloat. Working from home limited Bentley to making only half of what she had been making before. Furthermore, Bentley’s husband’s car broke down, and the bills quickly began to pile up.
“When battling cancer, you know you’re going to worry about the sickness, side effects and whether or not you’re going to survive,” said Bentley. “But what many people don’t realize is that you still have to earn money to live and keep up with the bills.”
Stephanie Martin, RN, BSN, patient navigator at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont Newnan, connected Bentley with a number of community groups to help Bentley support her family through difficult times.
Bridging the Gap provided help with food, and Salvation Army provided both payment for food and electricity. Another organization, One Roof, chipped in with a $500 advancement for rent. Martin also helped Bentley find cancer support groups in her community to provide the necessary emotional support she needed.
“I didn’t realize just how many people had breast cancer until after I was diagnosed,” said Bentley. “So many people came forth to share their experiences with breast cancer while I was sick and it made me realize awareness is key.”
Today, Bentley is cancer-free today and hopes her story reminds others of the importance of cancer screenings and self-exams. During her recovery, Bentley says, she wanted to wear her bandana or simply not wear her wig in public to call attention to the importance of yearly mammograms.
“I don’t want the attention on me,” said Bentley. “But I do want women to take this seriously.”
Bentley was among the 230,000 women diagnosed with new cases of invasive breast cancer last year, according to the American Cancer Society. Regular screening mammograms, breast self-exams and yearly breast exams by your physician can help detect breast cancer at an early stage.
For more information on cancer services at Piedmont, visit piedmontcancer.org.