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Jessie Deitzel, second from left, during a showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Sunrise Theater last year. With her, from left, are Stephanie Sims, Clara Poppele, Lindsay Odum and Gabby Studenmund. | Photo via Ted Fitzgerald/ The Pilot

Two years ago, during a random self-breast exam, Jessie Deitzel found two small lumps in her left breast. She thought about waiting until her annual appointment. After all, she had no risk factors for cancer.

“I had no family history, I breastfed both my children, I had the genetic testing and it came back negative. I never even put my cell phone in my bra, because I heard that could be dangerous,” she says. “I did all the things I was supposed to do to lower my risk, but without that monthly check you’re not doing everything you could possibly do.”

Something told Jessie to call her doctor — who told her it could be a clogged milk duct. But her oldest kid was 5. She knew that couldn’t be right.

An eventual ultrasound and mammogram found two significant lumps, and at least three smaller ones. The diagnosis? Invasive ductal carcinoma.

“In the back of my mind, I knew,” she says. “I was prepared for them to tell me that it was cancer. I had prepared my husband. But it was still really, really, scary, even though I had prepared myself as much as I could.”

And while it was confined to her left breast, Jessie opted for the double mastectomy. Her doctor asked her when she was available and she said, “Tomorrow.” He said, “Come back next week.”

Jessie right after surgery, left, and after this year’s Best of the Pines party.

With the offending lumps gone, Jessie thought she was done — but no. The doctors referred her to an oncologist, and she endured a year of chemo to make sure the disease was gone. It was hard on her body — at 5’2″, she got down to 80 pounds before the treatment was over.

Now, she’s considered in remission. And she’s working to spread the word about the importance of self-checks. (P.S.: Here’s a handy guide).

“Every October they tell you to do it, and then you forget about it,” she says. “I got lucky that I found the lumps when I did, because I had a very fast-acting type of cancer.”

And personally, she found comfort in therapy funded via FirstHealth’s Cancer CARE Fund, which provides support to patients and their families.

“I’m still dealing with the effects,” she says. “Sometimes I struggle with WHY — but it’s not fair for anyone who gets it. You just have to keep going and not give up.”

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