Editor’s note: In honor of October being National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, The Fremont Tribune is publishing a series, “Think Pink” that shares a story every Tuesday of community members who battled or are currently battling breast cancer. The Tribune’s masthead is also pink on these days instead of its normal black to commemorate the month.
Deb Bopp went for a yearly checkup when she heard some dreaded words:
“How long have you had this lump?”
A doctor had found a lump on the side of the Fremont woman’s breast that a mammogram hadn’t detected.
Treatment followed and Bopp is cancer-free — something she credits to early detection.
Looking back, Bopp said she’d had no previous symptoms before going for her annual checkup with an OBGYN doctor in November 2014.
“That’s when I those dreaded words,” Bopp said, referring to the question about the lump.
“What lump?” Bopp asked.
The doctor ordered further testing.
Bopp had an ultrasound.
“They felt it was a cyst and they wanted to watch it,” she said. “I pursued it and wanted further testing done. I had to know for sure.”
Bopp had a needle biopsy and the surgeon thought he’d find a cyst.
But he called her about a week later and said she had cancer.
“When you hear those words, you feel like you were punched,” she said.
Instead of a lumpectomy, Bopp chose to have a bi-lateral mastectomy.
Bopp, who has no history of breast cancer in her family, said she chose to have both breasts removed for cosmetic reasons.
Then 56 years old, she didn’t want reconstruction.
“I just feel that breasts don’t make a woman,” she said.
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“Your inner self,” she said.
She’s not regretted the decision. She’s even comfortable not wearing a mastectomy bra that gives the appearance of having breasts.
Bopp underwent 12 treatments of chemotherapy. Due to medical advancements, nausea that might otherwise have accompanied chemotherapy was controlled.
“The biggest complaint I had was fatigue,” she said.
At the time, her father, Donnie Peters of Fremont, had lymphoma so they had their cancer treatments together.
Bopp, then an emergency department nurse at Methodist Fremont Health, was off work for three months.
People from work hosted two benefits for her.
Bopp appreciates her faith, family and friends.
“They were the base, the mainstay that got me through the experience daily,” she said.
Bopp still remembers how difficult it was for her to hear the word, “cancer.”
“And as a nurse, knowing what you have to go through to get to the other end,” she added.
Yet, Bopp can see the good that came out of her situation. She said it provided her with clarity of her purpose in life and with her nursing career.
Bopp believes she can help people now going through this situation.
“I can speak from experience and maybe say something that will help them — to know that I have been down the road and I’m back, functioning at work and back to my normal life,” she said.
Today, Bopp is cancer-free. She continues to take oral medicine, which helps with estrogen levels.
“My prognosis is good because we caught it early,” said Bopp, who now works in the outpatient department of Methodist Fremont Health.
In the future, Bopp would like to travel. She hopes to help people, although she’s not quite sure in what capacity.
One thing is certain:
“With the advancement of medicine and early detection, I hope my daughter, Brandi, and granddaughter, Lauren, never have to go through this,” she said.