Dawn KaehneMclaurin

First post: Jun 28, 2022 Latest post: Dec 22, 2023
My journey started in March 2022, with an annual wellness visit and mammogram. I have had annual mammograms since age 30, due to a family history of breast cancer. I noticed a small change in my left breast, in which the center of my nipple turned white. This caused me to schedule my annual appointment, to “check it out”. In the end, this abnormality was insignificant; however, it began taking me down the path I now find myself trying to navigate.

Let me back up a little. I moved from Chicago to Minnesota at age 5. I worked as a CNA at Unity Hospital in Fridley, MN on the 2-West oncology/medical floor for 10 years .  I LOVED every minute of it! It filled my heart and soul, to care for those patients, and I adored every one of them. As hard as the work was everyday, I wanted to retire on the oncology floor. No matter how much I gave, somehow my patients would always give back more !!!  I used to wonder how they did that? They would tell me it was their heart for God, and/or their family and friends surrounding them with strength and positivity. We as medical staff would also encourage our patients to try and be as positive as they could each and every day, because we knew how powerful this could be, not only for their physical survival, but also their mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.  We cried many times with our patients. We followed them, from the beginning of their journey until the end, sadly too many times saying a final goodbye at their funeral. All in all, I would never change a day!!! It filled my soul, and gave me a chance to share my God with many, when given the right opportunity! I moved to Arkansas at age 40 in 2006, and continued to work in the medical field.

I share all this, because it gives background to my current personal struggle.  When I worked on the cancer floor, I saw the incredible suffering my patients endured with chemotherapy and radiation treatments. At that time, I had made a personal decision,  that if I every got “CANCER,” I would not do anything except “let life take it's course.” Unbeknown to me, my spiritual faith and my past medical decisions, would be challenged in March 2022.

After my routine visit with my doctor, I had my mammogram. During the mammogram, the radiology tech “needed to take additional views” and left twice to go “talk to the doctor.” At the time, I was calm and waited. She came back and said, “there was an area of concern and we needed to go upstairs to do an ultrasound”. It took about 1 1/2 hours as they searched, talked and took pictures. At the end, the radiologist came in and said, “we will need you to come back for a biopsy.” I remained calm. I followed up for my biopsy and a few days later, got an “inconclusive result,” that “they did not reach the area of concern”  I started to get a little anxious!!! After the first biopsy, while my breast was still painful and bruised, I had to endure multiple mammograms, before I could be scheduled for the second biopsy. I finally had the second biopsy, and again, waited days for my results! By the way, waiting is one of the HARDEST things to do, early in this process!!! When the doctor called with the results, I said “so it’s negative right?” To my surprise, he took a breath, and said “no, it came back as invasive ductal carcinoma cancer grade 3 stage 1 early.” 

At first I was shocked, then anger set in. I had just remarried less than a year prior. I asked God, “WHY? I don’t understand.” Then, I began to doubt my faith. Maybe my faith had not been “strong enough" for God to heal me?  I was in a vortex of misery, confusion and doubt. It took multiple loving people in my life, to help me understand that God did not “give this to me.” It was just my destiny. After weeks of anguish, I said to my husband, “you know, God knew before I was born what I was going to go through at this time in my life, this was NO surprise to 'him’, only to me, to you and now my family. I then asked God, “what  am I supposed to learn from all this, and how can I impact others along the way?” 

So the journey began. I stayed positive each and everyday. I felt peace and strength, that through God “all would work out and be fine.      I endured painful probes,prods,mammogram after mammogram, biopsies, daily discomfort of cancer markers left internally and ultrasound, with confidence all would be well in the end. Having to weigh my options not knowing confidently which one was best, I ultimately opted for a lumpectomy on 6-9-22. After the procedure, I was informed that the doctor also removed two lymph nodes for biopsy. My previous biopsy results stated that the lymph node was “negative,”so I was NOT particularly worried. I went in to surgery very POSITIVE!  Later at home following the procedure, my bandage fell off. I was hit with the “ugliness of it all.” (Nothing can prepare a woman for the surgical carving on such an intimate area of her body). I expected a lumpectomy to be a 1-2 inch incision, but I was looking at a 5 inch slice straight across the whole left side of my breast, along with an incredible amount of bruising, not including the 2 1/2” incision in my armpit. I was stunned.

The doctor called 6-15-22 and said, “ we got 21 mm of the 22 mm Cancer Mass (tumor) in my left breast which was good.” But then to my surprise, he continued on with “the two lymph nodes were POSITIVE and FULL OF CANCER”!!! The floor literally fell out from under me. All the strength I had left me, and I fell to pieces. I was all alone at the time. My brother just happened to call “to just talk,” immediately following receiving these words from my surgeon. In my dazed and numb state of mind, I answered the phone, unknowingly accepting the video call instead of a regular call. He saw the state I was in, and guessed I had heard from the surgeon. He said, “sis I’m so sorry, and I will stay with you till Mike gets home,” and he did. I told my brother, that since the results were positive, it will require chemotherapy and a much more aggressive surgery along with radiation.  I was now considered a Stage 2 Grade 3!!  After my earlier experience on the cancer floor in Minnesota, I had sworn I would NEVER agree to any of these extreme treatments! But now, I have a husband. After getting the news, my husband Mike held me, and we both sobbed. He said very clearly to me through his tears, “I need YOU to want to fight”!! I had nothing in me and was numb. All I could get out was, “I need to go to church, I need to be in church,” so Mike took me.  I knew my faith was being tested by the devil and that he thought he could get to me! Mike took me to church in the huge emotional mess I was in, “a complete wreck,” and it was the best decision, I could have made. It gave me back hope again, as they prayed for me with oil. I started to regain my will to fight back.The next day, numbness and defeat crept in again. I started to stare at the floor. Then, something came over me. I decided to play uplifting positive Christian music. The music filled our home. I cannot begin to tell you how important that decision was for me! My perspective changed, my world changed. I was finding my strength and will to fight again.

So here I am. I have decided to fight this cancer battle, along with God, my husband, my family and friends by my side.  I will continue to forge ahead for the upcoming surgery, chemotherapy/radiation treatments and healing. I will be walking the path I said I would never walk. It is now my reality, and I will need all your prayers and positive support to make it through. I realize that medical science has come a long way in 17 years.  I will continue to update, as I fight this battle. If in the event, I do not have the strength to write, my wonderful husband and family will fill you in. 

God Bless you all,